Breathing plays key roles in relieving tension in the body. A long exhalation in particular has shown great impact on stress coping and tension alleviation. When the breath is combined with conscious attention, studies show that it has therapeutic effects on physical, mental and emotional stress.
After a few deep breaths, we feel less tense because our attention spreads across body instead of being stuck at one spot. Whether the tension is physical, mental, or emotional, our body responds in a similar pattern, resulting in feelings of discomfort. I found that when that discomfort is actively managed, it lessens, and with persistent attention and practice, we may eliminate chronic discomforts. Although pain medicine is helpful in the short-term, practicing deep breathing on a daily basis is a long-term strategy for not only alleviating tension and pain but also preventing stress-related problems.
When combined with gentle movements, deep breathing exercise has an effect of gentle Tsunami in the body. It equalizes the energy balance across the body, deep and shallow, shifting even the most deeply ingrained pains out to the surface and then out of the body. The waves of your breathing inside the body become calm, there is a rising peace. And that is the goal.
The 3 Step Deep Breathing
How to experience that? There are three steps: Attention, Centering, and Release. These three steps ultimately have 3 outcomes: experiencing a sense of root through attention, a sense of shifting through centering, and a sense of entirety through release.
Attention is being aware of the body, your first action of orientation and anchoring the mind to a specific spot in the body. Your attention shifts as you move your body. As the body follows the mind, the mind also follows the body. Both the mind and body create and support anchoring points for reciprocal benefits: being linked as one. Attention thus needs to be specific and action-oriented. For example, if you send your attention to your fingertips AND open your fingers as wide as you can, your mind and body are on the same page.
Centering is shifting your attention from where you began to the middle of the body. Energy follows where your attention goes. When the energy and attention reach the center of the body and mature, they form a force that needs an outlet. You can dispatch it to where you wish it to go. A vivid imagination and conscious guidance help you disperse the tensions in the body (see Release phase). Burden shared lessens the pain.
Through centering you are orchestrating all parts of the body to evenly participate in the moment to moment process of living. What’s going on in one part of the body is informed to other neighboring parts on which their wellbeing depends.
The shift from a pain-driven notion of self to a facilitating-driver mindset reverses the odds moving from problem-driven complaint to solution-focused caring. Your efforts become certain, your attention becomes sharper, and now you can wait and trust yourself. This centering process builds your confidence and eliminates what-if thinking.
Release is the final step in completing the process of a breath: letting go. By releasing what gathered at the center of your body you return your body to a fresh condition. Emptiness is the beginning and ending stage at the same time. In each beginning and ending, the body goes through a cycle of completion for growth and healing.
In completely released condition, the sensation from the body merges with the mind. Physical pain becomes a non-physical experience. If our body is a manifestation of the non-material mind and our mind is the expression of the physical body’s condition, this releasing process can break down the wall integrating them with each other. What the body goes through is directly experienced through the mind. At this stage the mind is no longer swayed by the perceived bias but directly feels what actually happens in the body
This fresh feeling is helpful for healing, physical and mental. The body remembers this reward and become less reactive. You grow into a relaxed and eased person with much better tolerance to pain and stress. You become resilient. You are stress hardy.
Through release practice, the mind learns not to react preemptively to what hasn’t happened yet, but to simply go with the flow.