In Mindcast

Jane O’Rourke – Breathing Exercise for Calming Mind and Body

Jane O’Rourke is a Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist with Children, Young People and Families. She teaches Yoga4Trauma within the Trauma Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. How we breathe has a big impact on our mental and physical health. Jane guides us through a breathing exercise called the ‘box technique’ to calm the body and mind.

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Hello, my name is Jane O’Rourke, I’m a yoga and mindfulness teacher as well as a child, adolescent and family psychotherapist and today I am going to show you how to do a simple breathing exercise to calm your mind and body.

How we breathe has a big effect on our physical and mental health. Whatever we happen to be doing, our breath is automatically responding all the time. For example, if we are feeling quite rushed the breath quickens, and if we are feeling in a panic the breath shortens, and if we are feeling relaxed the breath lengthens. So whatever we do or feel, our breath is responding to it. I like to think of the breath as our constant companion on our life’s journey, and we can use this constant companion to help us change how we feel emotionally and physically by watching the breath as well as using techniques that have been developed over thousands of years in ancient wisdom traditions. So breathing well helps the body regenerate itself by receiving good amounts of oxygen, and it enables our mind to be calm and present. It also reduces the bodies stress chemical, cortisol.

So this breathing exercise I’m going to show you helps slow down the heartrate, which allows the body to begin to relax and release tension.

You can sit on the floor and perhaps use a cushion so you can sit nice and comfortably, or you can use a straight backed chair. Having a good posture is important to breathing well and this will allow the breath the flow really well, so sit tall and imagine a golden thread at the top of your head being gently tugged so your spine grows a little and the chest expands, or you can lie down on the floor and keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor so you can feel your back is nice and relaxed.

Now bring your attention to your shoulders and allow them to soften and relax, soften the jaw, soften the root of your tongue and allow your gaze to soften, or you can close your eyes. This technique is called Four Square Breathing or Box Breathing, it helps balance your nervous system and so helps us calm by breathing in and out in equal proportion. You breathe in fully for a count of four, you hold it for a count of four, then you breathe out fully for four seconds and also hold for four seconds again. I’ll show you now.

So on your next in breath, breath in for a count of 4… 4, 3, 2, 1, hold the breath: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing in: 4, 3, 2, 1, holding: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing in: 4, 3, 2, 1, holding: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1.

We are about half way through.

Breathing in: 4, 3, 2, 1, holding: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing in: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, pausing: 4, 3, 2, 1.

Last time.

Breathing in: 4, 3, 2, 1, holding: 4, 3, 2, 1, breathing out: 4, 3, 2, 1, holding: 4, 3, 2, 1.

Now just allow the breath to just flow as it likes, not trying to change anything, and just noticing how you are feeling… and give yourself a few moments here if you like just to be able to relax, and give yourself some time just to be alongside yourself. Allowing the breath to just flow in and out. And then whenever you are ready coming back into the room in your own time.

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