Check in, when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, notice your breathing. You will probably be breathing quick shallow breaths using just your upper chest while overworking your shoulder and neck muscles to complete the breath.
The mind rides the breath. When the mind is wild, so is the breath. When the mind is calm, the breath is slow and deep. Notice a sleeping baby. They seem to breath with their whole body. When you force the breath to slow, so does your mind. It is all interrelated.
Below is a short but effective deep breathing exercise to revitalize the body and still the mind. I love to start my yoga classes off with it. Balasana, or child's pose, is a great pose to stretch hips, thighs and ankles, as well as strengthens the spine - a perfect compliment for those who sit a lot.
1 - Lay in child's pose with your arms outstretched.
Feet together, or apart, whatever feels best. If your seat isn't supported on your legs or mat, try sticking a pillow or blanket under your seat for support. If you have troubles pointing your toes (or this pose hurts your feet) try sticking a rolled up blanket under your ankles. You want this pose to be as comfortable as possible so you can focus on your breath.
2 - Inhale while counting to five slowly, then exhale while counting to five slowly.
Just focus on completely filling, then emptying the lungs. Let go of any thoughts, and keep focused on the breath. Repeat five to ten times.
3 - Inhale for seven counts, exhale for seven counts.
At the top of your inhalation, focus on bringing air and movement into your back ribs. At the bottom of your exhalation, focus on drawing your belly inwards towards your spine, squeezing out all your air. Repeat five to ten time.
4 - Inhale for seven counts, focusing on expansion, exhale for seven counts, focus on contraction of the spine.
While breathing in, focus on the spine getting longer in both directions. As you breath in, feel the back of the pelvis, sacrum and tail bone softening and growing longer, like you are growing a tail. Exhale, feel the pelvis naturally tuck under as you squeeze out all the air. The pubic bone moves toward your sternum, shortening your spine. Repeat as much as you wish.
At first, deep breathing exercises like this one may be difficult to do. It takes a while before you develop control over breathing muscles, or have the ability to let go of the mind and focus completely on the body. The more you try though, the easier it becomes and the better you will feel.
Practicing conscious deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to respond. This response helps to relax and renew the body. In fact, practicing conscious breathing actually allows the body to store prana, or vital life energy.
Vigor, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana. According to the Upanisads, prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe. They are born through and live by it, and when they die their individual breath dissolves into the cosmic breath.
"Inhalation is the act of receiving the primeval energy in the form of breath, and retention is when the breath is held in order to savor that energy. In exhalation all thoughts and emotions are emptied with breath: then, while the lungs are empty, one surrenders the individual energy, "I", to the primeval energy, the Atma."