Breathing Experiment 

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This guided breathing experience is intended to help you relax,  learn more about your body and possibly help you escape pain.   Get comfortable,  preferably laying  on your back on a bed or other padding,  but use any position that minimizes your discomfort.   You may wish to dim the lights before beginning.  The times following certain paragraphs are a suggested minimum time to play, but feel free to deviate.

We'll begin by taking some slow,  deep breaths in through our nose.   You can exhale through your mouth or nose,  but it is important to inhale through your nose.   When we inhale through the nose,  we are telling our nervous system that "we are safe".   Breathing in through our mouth communicates danger to the nervous system and prepares our body for action, such as running or fighting.
Ground In
Let's take a few deep breaths in through the nose,  to begin our experiment.   (0:30)
Belly Breathe
Now,  take your hands and place them palm down on your belly.   Try breathing deep into your belly for a few breaths and notice how your belly moves your hands.   (0:30)

Lower Chest Breathe
Next, move your hands onto the bottom of your rib cage and try breathing into this area of your chest.   Notice how this feels and monitor the movement of your hands.  (0:30)

Upper Chest Breathe
Finally, place your hands on the upper portion of the rib cage and try breathing deeply into this area.   Again,  notice how this feels,  while monitoring the movement of your hands.   (0:30)

Choose Best Location & Breathe
Which of the three locations allowed you to feel most connected with your breath?   Move your hands to that location and take a few more deep breaths,  breathing in through your nose.   Note if your breathing changes in any way?   Is it slower or maybe deeper?  Is your inhalation the same duration as your exhalation?   (0:30)

Left Side Breathing
Now we'll try something more challenging,  which you may or may not be able to do.  Try breathing more into the left hand than the right hand for a few breaths.  (0:30)

Right Side Breathing
Do you feel you were able to do that?   Now try breathing more into the right hand.  (0:30)

Breathing into Restricted Side
Which side moved more easily?   Roll onto this side in a side lying position, if possible,  and try breathing more into the opposite side,  which was not moving as well.   Your weight should limit the freely moving side and you might notice more movement in the side that is free to move.   (0:30)

Did you feel more movement on the restricted side?   You can use side lying as a technique to help the opposite side move better when breathing.  

Belly - Chest Alternate Breathing
Roll onto your back and we are going to try another experiment. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest.  Alternate breathing more into the belly and then more into the chest.   Are you able to feel the difference?  (0:30)

Breath Hold Belly - Chest Movement
Now,  breath into your belly,  and while holding your breath, move it up to your chest and then back down to your belly before exhaling.   Play with moving your breath throughout your body.   Can you move it diagonally across the body?  (0:30)

Breathing & Nervous System Connection
Relax and breathe normally.  Our breath straddles the boundary between actions which we consciously control and those which occur automatically.   Most of the time we breathe without thinking about it,  but by controlling our breath we can communicate with the part of us that runs automatically.   Slow, deep breathing through our nose let's our nervous system know that we are safe. 

When we feel threatened, the "fight or flight" part of our nervous system prepares our body for action.  The sympathetic branch of the nervous system prepares us for fight or flight by raising our pulse,  increasing our breathing,  activating our large movement muscles and hormones to help us withstand the threat.   The body is primed for action in preparation for running and fighting.   Unfortunately,  this nervous system reacts the same to being stalked by a tiger,  where the impending struggle is real,  and being cut off in traffic,  where the danger has already passed. 

How we breathe sends a signal to the nervous system concerning how to continue.  If we take shallow,  rapid,  panicked breathes we communicate that we are in grave danger and the nervous system should increase our fight or flight response.   If we take deep,  slow breathes we are sending the message that we feel safe and the threat has passed.  The body can then begin to activate the "rest and digest"  or parasympathetic part of the nervous system.  

The fight or flight response uses up our energy stores,  while the rest and digest state restores our energy.   Breathing not only helps control this balance,  but also plays a major role in removing wastes from the body and delivering our most needed nutrient,  oxygen. 

Becoming more aware of opportunities to grab control of our breathe and consciously breathing slowly and deeply can have a profound effect on our overall well being.   There are many more breathing exercises to explore,  ranging from specific inhalation and exhalation durations or ratios to breath holding or skipping.
For now,  stay calm and have fun!   Thanks for listening.