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Two Breathing Techniques for Anxiety and High Blood Pressure

Anxiety and high blood pressure plague the modern world. The levels of cortisol and adrenaline released into our system is almost nonstop every day. We have come to see living life as a threat and are paying the price through the health of our body and mind.

Did you know that 75 to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are stress related? Many, if not most, of those visits are treated with a drug.

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat these symptoms naturally and avoid, not only the high cost of drugs, but also the high cost of the side effects which often accompany those drugs.

Any relaxing type of breath helps to release tension and reduce high blood pressure. Use of focused breathing in a relaxing mode is safe, harmless, and can be a key element to any program to reduce or eliminate the use of drugs. However, if you have had a heart attack or stroke, don’t use a technique where you have to hold your breath or strain in any way.

Simple abdominal breathing for relaxation will do just fine, especially if you combine it with a calming visualization. Take, for example, Dr. Robert S. Elliott, who suffered a heart attack at the age of 44. He now recommends abdominal breathing with visualization to almost all of his patients for 10 to 15 minutes a day thereby modifying the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

Abdominal breathing is simplicity itself. We were born breathing that way. To reacquaint yourself with it, simply lie on your back or sit comfortably with your spine straight and place your hands on your belly.

Inhale slowly and deeply, letting your abdomen expand like a balloon. Let it fall as you gently press on the abdomen and lightly contract the abdominal muscles during your exhalation to release the old air. Continue ten or fifteen minutes while visualizing a beautiful place such as a beach or favorite relaxing spot.

Remember, it takes time for breathing techniques to lower blood pressure. Don't expect it to happen overnight anymore than you would expect to lose weight after only one visit to the gym. But know this, there are countless studies to show that it can and will happen over time.

A slightly more advanced technique can be utilized to lower blood pressure quicker if you are okay with holding your breath as part of the process. In fact, just a few days ago I was scurrying around the grocery store when I saw a blood pressure machine. I decided to stop my hurried pace for a minute and get a reading. Sure enough, it was high. Knowing that this was unacceptable and that I needed to slow down, I did the following technique for one cycle and it immediately dropped 13 points!!

This process, made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil, is probably taught more than any other technique I've become aware of. It is simply called the 4 – 7 – 8 breathing technique.

It balances the autonomic nervous system and reduces both anxiety and high blood pressure.

Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

1) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

2) Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

3) Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

5) This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

Focused breathing is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I wouldn't start my day without it. If you find that you enjoy these two exercises, make sure you subscribe to our website because there are more techniques coming soon.

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