Breathing steps forward again and gives us the way out of stress and access to our the power of relaxation. Most days our rate of breathing, measured by breaths per minute, is somewhere between 12 to 18 bpm. A nice pace that keeps our breathing shallow and our mind zipping along.
If we want to get to a more relaxed place, we need to get bpm down to a maximum of 10. According to studies, keeping our breathing at no more than 10 bpm for about 15 minutes twice a day kicks in changes to bring many people’s blood pressure into the desired healthy range and can retrain the body to keep pressure down. Bringing the breath rate down reduces the stress response that gets our body to release smooth muscle tension that can clamp down on our blood vessels, raising blood pressure.
That’s one benefit. If we can learn to lower our bpm at will, we will have superior control over our stress. We can bring our breathing rate way down, lowering our stress level with it. By decreasing our breathing in steps, we can get to 6, 5, and maybe four breaths per minute. That’s right, 4 or 5 breaths per minute. So, what does that feel like. Alert, calm, in-control relaxation.
The trick is taking a fast breathing pace and slowly, over some minutes, bring it down by increasing the exhalation time and the time between exhalation and inhalation. Trying to keep this in your head, by counting seconds of breathing, is tough, so that is where equipment, audio recordings, software, and apps come in.
Resperate came on the market about five years ago when eight studies showed good results for lowering high blood pressure in some patients. It is about $300 or so and comes with CD player sized main unit, headphones, and a chest strap. The chest strap contains a sensitive device that keeps track of your breathing. The main unit shows your starting breathing rate and then plays music and voice instructions to slowly bring your breath down to at least ten bpm. A digital readout gives a precise count of your breath rate per minute. Great for both blood pressure work and general relaxation training. Recommended. Link
The Nightwave is a simple device that sits on your nightstand and projects a soft light on your bedroom ceiling. By breathing along with this beam of light (it slowly fades on and fades off), you can lower your breath and thereby ease yourself to sleep. Link
Several relaxation artists have put together mp3 and CD recordings of music with special signals marking when to breathe in and when to breathe out. This is a low-cost way to do this work, and the music adds another dimension to paced breathing.
Breathe Away High Blood Pressure – Highly Recommended (good music with a Tibetan bowl as signal) – Link
Breathe Easy – Highly Recommended – 6 CDs ambient and classical music choices – Link
Slow Down! – Recommended – Link
If you have a smart phone or iTouch, there are some apps available to lead your breathing (this is great app developers have jumped into this). These apps include verbal instructions, intros to paced breathing, tones, and graphics to get you to the right speed. Here are a few:
Breathing Zone (iTunes app store or www.breathing-zone.com)
Universal Breathing (iTunes app store)
The makers of the Nightwave have produced a download/CD (the Daywave) that puts a small icon on your PC that helps users pace their breathing. The icon is a bubble that expands when it is time to breath in and shrinks in size when it is time to breath out. A nice work-day relaxation companion. Link
Here’s a similar software program called, Breathe Away Tension – Link