Using Mindful Breathing for Emotional Regulation

by Misha Grodt MA, LPC

These techniques can be used as needed, or as a daily practice sequence that will, in time, bring overall balance and harmony to the body, mind, and emotions.

If used as a practice sequence, begin and end with a grounding exercise in which you connect with the earth via the floor, chair, etc., and simply notice, without judgment, what’s happening in the body and mind.

Deep Belly Breath:

Bring one hand to the lower belly.  As you inhale through the nose, let the abdomen expand fully.  As you exhale, release the air and slow the breath down.  Inhale and repeat the process, allowing the breath to be deep and flowing. Keep the belly soft, close the eyes, focus the attention entirely on the breath as it moves in and out, and how the body feels as you are breathing.  Extend the exhale so that it is longer than the exhale.  With practice, eventually build to twice as long.

Benefits:  fills the lungs to capacity and empties them thoroughly, enabling you to supercharge the system with seven times as much oxygen and prana (lifeforce) as in a normal breath.   Engages the parasympathetic nervous system (the “brake”).  Also a great stress buster. 

Rapid Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Bring one hand to the abdomen.  Quickly and forcefully contract and snap in the abdomen as you exhale forcefully through the nose.  Let the inhalation naturally occur – the abdomen relaxes between contractions and the air flows back on its own.  Begin with about 3 rounds of 15-20 breaths per round, and gradually build up the number of breaths per round and the number of rounds.

Benefits:  cleanses and purifies the nervous system, increases energy and alertness.  Please do not practice if you are more than 3 months pregnant.   

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Using your right hand, place your thumb against your right nostril.  Inhale deeply through the left nostril.  Hold your breath as you close your left nostril with your index finger.  Release your right thumb and exhale slowly through the right nostril.   Inhale on the right, then close the right and exhale on the left.  Inhale left, then close the left and exhale right.  Repeat as many times as you like, 3 minutes is the recommended time for beginners.  Make sure to keep the head still, the face, neck and shoulders relaxed, and the breaths long and smooth.  As you get more comfortable with the practice, bring in the Deep Belly breath, and practice over time extending the exhalation until it is eventually twice and long as the inhalation.

Benefits:  Purifies the nervous system and balances the hemispheres of the brain.   Brings calmness to the mind and body. 

Tips on using breath to manage emotions throughout the day:

  • Use Mindful Breathing often as a way to reconnect with yourself and be present in the moment.
  • The body, breath and mind are intertwined.  When we’re stressed, the breath becomes shallow and choppy.  Conversely, when we breathe fully and deeply our bodies and minds get the message to calm down.
  • Use the breath as a tool when you are feeling overwhelmed.  Visualize what you need coming in on the inhale (e.g. light, energy, positivity), and what you’d like to release on the exhalation (e.g. negativity, toxins).  Use corresponding colors or sounds if you’d like.
  • Take a little bit of time each day to practice Mindful Breathing.  Make it your time to let everything else go.

 

Misha Grodt, MA, LPC, views therapy as sacred work in which the therapeutic relationship is one of mutual respect and collaboration.  She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Washington (1997) and a Master’s degree (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University (2010) and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Colorado.  In 2014 she completed a three year advanced training in Somatic Experiencing (SE), a body-centered approach to treating trauma and other stress disorders.  She is inspired by Western psychological models and Eastern contemplative techniques, and her practice is enhanced by many years of experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, and as a seeker of various healing modalities. A life-long path of self-exploration and global adventure has led her to ashrams, Native American sweat lodges, monasteries, and innumerable seminars, workshops, and retreats. You can find more about Misha’s work on her website and on Facebook.