When we are stressed, we breathe from the chest rather than the belly. We unconsciously hold our breaths in, which makes the in-breaths longer than the out-breaths. If you are stressed and want to relax, the quickest way to reverse such tight breathing is to sigh.
A client tried to persuade a busy friend to relax. “Stop and take three slow, deep breaths,” he said. She laughed: “I haven’t got time for that!” Well actually, if you have time to breathe, you have time to sigh.
Three Sighs is the most time-efficient meditation you will ever do. It’s very short – maybe 30 seconds long – but you can change your state of body and mind markedly in that time.
The slow tempo of sighing is the perfect antidote to the tight, shallow, and erratic pattern of our tense breathing. The effect lingers for a few minutes afterwards, and when you find yourself starting to tense up again, you can always sigh again.
Think of a sigh as having three parts: the in-breath, the out-breath and the pause at the end.
- The big inhale opens up the tight chest muscles which are holding the stress.
- The big exhale is all about letting go control; let the breath drop through the body without forcing it.
- Then wait and pause at the end for as long as is comfortable.
Two or three more big conscious sighs will break that pattern of tight breathing.
Feel your belly soften. Ahh.
Feel your chest open up. Ahhh.
Don’t worry if you yawn. That’s a sign you are relaxing. When you are done, return to a natural relaxed breathing rhythm and carry on with that difficult conversation or with your busy day.