Adapted from Purposeful Breathing (Exisle Publishing) By Dr. Greg Smith

Purposeful Breathing

Purposeful Breathing

Whenever I feel tension, I focus on breathing. Here, we will explore three easy breathing techniques that draw on both Western and Eastern traditions to help you ease tension.

Before we begin, however, please note that the first step for releasing tension is to make sure you are not breathing in a way that creates it — high breathing, rapid breathing or ‘reverse’ breathing are likely to make you tense and then keep you tense. Slow, deep diaphragmatic or full breathing are always a good start.

Technique One: Simple Tension Release

If you have a specific area of tension, you can help release it through breathing. Imagine that the energy of the breath is moving into the area of tension, with the tension flowing out on the exhalation. If it is muscular tension, and it feels okay to do so, deliberately tense that muscle group on the inhalation, holding briefly with tension, then let go of it on the exhalation (of course, using common sense: this may not be the best approach if the muscle is very sore or tender.)

Technique Two: Earthing Breath

Another breath for letting go of stress and tension comes from the Taoist tradition. The idea of this is to let the stress or any negative emo- tions flow down through your body, through your legs and out through your feet into the earth. Taoists believe that the earth absorbs and recy- cles your negative energy like compost.

In this tradition, the point just below where the ball of your big toe meets the pad of the rest of the foot is called the ‘bubbling spring’ and it is thought that through this point the energy of the earth can bubble up into us and through it we can also let our stresses and negative feel- ings run down into the earth.

Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and imagine on an in- breath that you are letting the energy of the earth flow up into you (the feeling is more like allowing it rather than forcing it). The energy flows up through the legs and into the body. On the exhalation let stress and tension flow out of your body, down through the legs and into the earth. Excess stress can flow down into the earth, just like an ‘earth wire’ conveys excess electricity.

Technique Three: The Projecting Breath

Take a full breath and then purse your lips and strongly exhale. The opening is not tiny but small enough that the exhale takes a few seconds and feels as if this allows you to project your breath far from the body. The exhalation is strong (because the open- ing of the lips is restricted) but slow. The stress or tension can be sent out on the breath and can also be directed to trees — again, in the Taoist tradition there is the belief that trees take the stress and convert it into positive energy, just as they take carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen.