Has this ever happened to you?  You’re having a stressful day, your brain is on overload and just when you feel like you’re ready to explode, someone tells you to “take a deep breath.”  Ugh!

As well meaning as this advice may be, I’ve recently learned that when we are faced with a stressful or overwhelming situation, “taking a deep breath” may not be the best thing to do.

While breathwork can be a great way to decrease your stress level, when you take just one deep breath, you could actually be increasing rather than decreasing your heart rate.  I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.

This phenomenon is called respiratory sinus arrhythmia which is just a fancy way of saying that you’re creating an irregular heartbeat.

Obviously no one wants an irregular heartbeat, especially when you’re feeling stressed, so in order to avoid this, researchers have found that taking two short inhales through your nose and then a long, extended exhale through your nose is a much better way to “take a breath.”

This breathing technique, known as a physiological sigh, activates the vagus nerve in your brain and encourages your body to naturally shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode.  And that is where the magic happens!

Your parasympathetic nervous system creates the ultimate relaxation response in your body by stabilizing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and lowering your cortisol levels.

I like to think of the PNS as our “goldilocks” place.  Not too high, not too low….just right.

Let’s face it…..life can get pretty crazy sometimes and there will be moments of overwhelm.  By learning to harness the power of your breath, this breathing technique can be so much more than an exercise in breathing correctly.  It can be the tool you need to dramatically improve your stress response and your life.

So don’t wait.  Give it a try today.  😉