As crazy as it might sound, you can control your heart rate. Years ago, I read an article about a guru who learned to slow his heart rate. For years, scientists thought it impossible to suggest that the autonomous nervous system (this controls body functions such as respiration, digestion, pupil response, etc.) can be consciously controlled. By controlling your breath you can learn to control not only your heart rate but boost your immune system, control anxiety and more.
Many of you may already practice yoga. you know that yoga itself and it’s breathing techniques can help you calm and focus your minds and bodies. It brings an inner peace to you that perhaps you didn’t have before you joined a class. Yoga is the one thing that makes me feel normal again and its not only from the stretching and movement, but from the conscious effort of breathing during each movement.
So getting back to the article I read about the Yogi, taking on the advice, in the evenings I would consciously meditate to be in tune with my heart rate. How you can do this is to find a quiet comfortable spot such as lying on a bed with door closed. Be sure to leave any distracting devices out of the room. Tune into your breath and begin to breathe deeper - bring conscious of bringing your breath down to your belly button (instead of just into your upper chest). When you have that rhythm going, tune in your ears to your pulse and your heart rate. Once you hear it or feel it, start slowing down your breath while still listening to your heart beat. Try to keep all thoughts out of your head except for breathing in and out slowly as well as the sound of your heart beat. When you feel calm you can bring yourself back into to the world around you. This technique can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. It all depends on what you need at that moment.
I know from experience, when a person is stressed out they tend to have shallow breath - into our chest rather than relaxing our diaphragms. When this happens our levels of anxiety and stress increase and our Sympathetic nervous system sends out stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc). The fight and flight response puts us on edge, making it harder for our bodies to shut off and let go - if the stress stimulus is constantly on and constantly building, your bodies will be influenced by too much of the stress hormones. So take the time to try this out and calm yourself naturally at any time during the day and teach yourself to move on from the threat of stress.
For those of you interested in looking into this more, or for those who suffer from anxiety and stress, and want to read into this more read this article on Pranayama breathing from the Chopra Center.
All this is great to do anytime during the day or even right before bed. It sets up your evening for calming the mind and body.
And if I didn’t need to tell you, another reason to use breathing techniques is that stress can lead to debilitating diseases such as increased blood glucose levels (diabetes), inflammation, cancer, strokes, heart attacks and more. So take a break from life, breathe, and live a long and happy life.