Breathing and Guided Meditation

by Emily LoTurco, TCM intern

On some of those busy days, taking care of ourselves can be a challenge. Taking a five minute break to calm down and truly relax can be key. This can give us the strength to get through the rest of the day confidently and without feeling overwhelmed. A really great way to relax in a five to fifteen minute period is deep breathing or a short guided meditation. Here is a compilation of several different breathing techniques and some sources for guided meditation.

Breathing to Relax
This breathing technique is incredibly simple and easy, and it can be used at any time, for any amount of time. It can also be a wonderful tool to help in falling asleep. It is best to be lying down straight and comfortably for this exercise, but sitting easily in a chair is a fine second option.

     Start by breathing in for the count of four. Try to completely fill your lungs in that time. Focus on your belly rising with each breath, and imagine your lungs fillings up with oxygen.
     Hold in the breath for the count of ten. Imagine the oxygen spreading to your entire body, bringing relaxation and strength to every inch.
     Release the breath for a count of eight. Imagine that you are breathing out all of your tensions and leaving behind only relaxation.

Breathing to Energize
This technique can be used after the previous relaxing technique in order to help you wake up and energize. It can also be used in the morning when you first get out of bed. It is best to stand while doing this exercise, with plenty of room around you so that your arms won’t run into anything.

     Start by standing up straight with your arms straight at your sides. Form your mouth into the shape of a small “o.”
     Take in one quick breath. As you breath in, lift your arms out straight in front of you, so that they are parallel with the floor and perpendicular with your body. Do not breath out.
     Immediately take another quick breath. During this second breath, move your arms so that they are straight out on your sides, so that your body is in the shape of a “t.” Still do not breath out.
     Again, immediately take in another quick breath, and bring your arms up straight above your head. At this point, your lungs should be completely filled.
     Finally, let out your breath slowly while bringing your arms back down to your sides.
     Repeat three times.

Guided Meditation Sources
Sometimes it is nice to have more structure to a relaxation ritual. Here are a few good sources for guided meditation that you can find online. The first three are also downloadable MP3s, so that you could put them onto your ipod, or computer.
This mp3 by Kevin Sullivan goes through the relaxation response. The first part discusses the basics of the relaxation response, and the best way to train yourself to be able to relax. The second part moves into an actual guided meditation.
This guided meditation is only five and a half minutes long. It is perfect for a very short break in the middle of the day. The speaker is Sara Gustavesen, and she leads you through a short breathing exercise.
This is another guided meditation by Sara Gustavesen. It is about ten and a half minutes long, and excellent for a longer break.
This guided meditation is a favorite. It has a video of a candle, which provides something for your eyes to focus on while it walks you through a very gentle and relaxing breathing exercise.

Hypnobirthing ®
Hypnobirthing is a method of childbirth that uses relaxation and self hypnosis to help manage discomfort and eliminate fear around labor. For more information, check out their website:

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