Relieving tension in a stressful situation whether at work or in relationships at home can begin as awareness is raised. When you recognize that you are frustrated, unhappy or angry you can begin to shift your experience consciously.
Truly becoming aware requires you to pause. It gives you space to see and evaluate your experience. How do you feel when stress arises in your life? Do you clench your jaw? Do your shoulders rise up to your ears and stiffen, tightening your neck as well? Or do you round your shoulders closing down? Does your stomach begin to constrict? Is your breathing shallow?
Even general day-to-day work experiences, keeping up a quick pace, forgetting your needs, both physical and emotional, can initiate symptoms as the ones mentioned above. These may bring about fatigue, apathy or decreased vitality in general.
The first step in releasing tension is to raise your awareness of yourself and how you respond to situations. When you become aware you begin to take responsibility for what you feel and how you choose to respond. When you notice you are tensing or that your breath is restricted you can begin to improve your state of being from degenerative to uplifting by working with the breath. The breath is both the indicator and the remedy.
Deergha Swaasam, the yogic practice of deep breathing, is the foundation for more advanced breathing practices. It can be done wherever you find yourself. By breathing deeply and slowly, this technique eventually allows you to utilize the full capacity of the lungs, taking in as much as seven times more oxygen and prana (life-energy) than you would in everyday shallow breathing. It calms the mind and, in turn, allows the body to become more relaxed.
The ideal would be to practice in a comfortable, seated position with the spine long and extended upward. With awareness on your posture the breath will flow more freely. After you have practiced Deergha Swaasam for a while and you feel comfortable with it, you can do it standing if that is what your situation requires.
To begin the practice, sit comfortably, extend the spine and center the head. Think of your body as an instrument that works best when it has the proper alignment and is well tuned. Your hands can relax by your side or on your lap. You will breathe into the abdomen, rib cage and upper chest. Then you will exhale in reverse, starting with the upper chest, the rib cage and finally the abdomen.
Inhalations and exhalations are done through the nose. First, begin by exhaling completely. Then inhale, expanding the abdomen as you fill it with oxygen. Then feel the air rising upward to expand the rib cage, then all the way up until the collarbones slightly raise. Now that you have inhaled fully and deeply, begin to exhale again through the nose, starting from the top, feeling the collarbones lower.
As the air moves out of the torso, relax the rib cage and gently pull in the abdomen to empty the lungs as completely as possible, so that you begin with fresh air each time. If you can, close your eyes. Continue the breathing practice, allowing the each part to blend into the next so the breath flows smoothly and continuously.
It may be helpful to place a hand on the abdomen to feel it expanding on the inhalation and contracting on the exhalation. If breathing deeply in this way is uncomfortable, give yourself time to adjust to this new way of breathing, pause and return the breath to normal.
Explore Deergha Swaasam, deep breathing, and notice how when you increase your relationship with the breath your feeling of well-being increases. With practice, the breath gives you the space, vitality and clarity to shift from feeling tense and stressed to feeling light and at ease.