When you are mentally, emotionally and physically at ease, your heartbeat and your breathing naturally synch up. When you are stressed, angry or sick, however, these things get out of whack, which then further convinces your body that something must be wrong!
RSA (Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia) breathing is a simple technique that intentionally synchs up your breathing and heartbeat. This encourages a state of emotional calm, mental clarity and bodily relaxation. When you are stressed, frustrated, unable to sleep or simply have a headache, try the following exercise for 5-10 minutes:
- Find your pulse. Put a couple of fingers along the right side of your neck, or try your wrist. It may take some experimentation at first, but once you’ve found your pulse, it’s easy to repeat.
- Breathe slowly and deeply. As you do so, count four beats of your pulse on the inhale, four beats on the exhale. Your breath will gradually even out, settling into a comfortable rhythm with your pulse. (You may find that five or six beats works better for you. Whatever feels the most natural is best.)
- Once your breathing has settled into a slow, steady rhythm, pay particular attention to your exhale. Notice that your heartbeat slows down ever so slightly on the exhale. This will likely be very subtle at first. As you notice this slight slowing when you breathe out, give your body permission to slow even more on the exhale. The more deeply relaxed you are, the slower your heartbeat on the exhale relative to your heartbeat on the inhale.
With repeated practice, your breath will slow to a relaxed, steady trickle. Your body will feel warm and relaxed all over, as blood (and thereby oxygen) is evenly distributed throughout. Slowed breathing and a slowed heart rate, equals slowed thoughts, relaxed muscles and feelings of peacefulness.