When you’re planning a big event — wedding or otherwise — stress can come knocking on your door, bringing with it a surge of anxiety and a lack of sleep. Following his workshop with VERDEN last month, breathwork therapist and expert Luke McSwiney shares some of his calming wisdoms with us.
“Something that appears from the outside so functional and mundane, on closer inspection underpins the quality of our experience. The breath has the power to propel us into action or settle us into calm. Breathing efficiently helps us to find balance — and through this can help with anxiety, overwhelm, tiredness, lowness and burnout.
The first thing is to develop an awareness of how we breathe — our personal breath pattern or signature. This is indicative of how we move through life. Once you start becoming aware of the breath, you will most likely find it difficult to stop. Put simply, each element of the breath corresponds to either an efficient and restful or inefficient and stressful way of breathing. Breathing light, slow, deep (diaphragmatically/into your belly) and with your nose is efficient and restful, whilst breathing hard, fast, shallow or with your mouth is inefficient and stressful. The state of rest allows us access to our innate creativity, joy and playfulness.
However, it’s important to note a state of stress is in itself not a bad thing, since it helps us focus, solve problems and gives us bursts of energy. What we want is the ability to be dynamic and agile, moving in and out of rest and stress according to our needs. If we can befriend the breath and maintain our baseline, the rest will follow.”
Guided breathwork techniques to try:
Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. Make sure that your spine is relatively straight. If you like, bring one hand to the chest and the other to the belly, and begin:
1. For Connection: ‘Deep Breathing’
This is a slow balancing cycle to bring you into connection with mind and body. Breathe in for a count of 7, and out for 7 counts. In and out of the nose, breathing diaphragmatically.
2. For Relaxation: ‘4-7-8 Breathing’
A calming cycle for when you feel stressed or anxious. Breathe in for a count of 4, pause for a count of 7, and breathe out for 8 counts. In and out of the nose, breathing diaphragmatically.
3. For Sleep: ‘Box Breathing’
A deeper calming cycle for bedtime that will help you drift into sleep. Breathe in for a count of 5, pause for 5 counts, breathe out for 5 counts, pause for 5 counts. In and out of the nose, breathing diaphragmatically.
4. For Release: ‘Conscious Connected Breath’
This one is a full breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth, breathing diaphragmatically. On the exhalation, you should have no control of the breath (equally no force behind it) — it is just a release or a letting go. There is no need to do a breath count, just keep the cycles consistent and even for a few minutes while lying down, then take a couple of minutes to breathe normally in and out of the nose before completing the practice. If you start to feel lightheaded, out of breath or panicky, please stop.
Try each of these on repeat for a few minutes, once or twice a day for a week and see how you feel.
If you are struggling to extend the breath for the count, try making an ocean sound as you breathe in and out. To do this, you make a ‘haaaaaa’ sound, but with the mouth closed.
Luke McSwiney is a breath and trauma therapist, find out more at breathguide.co. You can download the VERDEN breathwork app here. We organise regular workshops for our clients at Kin House, look out for our next on kinhouse.co.uk.
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