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Relaxation Techniques: Breath Counting

Sometimes relaxing and putting your mind at ease after a long day at work can be hard. Jennifer Williamson, author of SLEEP RITUALS, shares a new relaxation technique called breath counting. 

Breath counting is perhaps the most basic of all breathing techniques, but don’t let its simplicity tempt you into dismissing its value. Keeping it simple is the best approach to cultivating a new ritual; in the case of this ritual, the beauty of simplicity is its effectiveness.

This technique helps you achieve the relaxed mental and physical state that’s desirable for sleep by counting slow, rhythmic breaths. Stress is dislodged as distractions are placed on the back burner, and you will appreciate the light, centered presence you’re left with. It’s all about pausing to be mindful of this one moment you’re breathing in and out. Doing so connects you to the silence underneath the noise—peace is a natural side effect, as is peaceful sleep. Think of breath counting as pressing the Refresh button. Follow along for simply beautiful results:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight, chin ever-so-slightly tucked. Consciously relax your limbs and muscles.
  2. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on a few deep breaths, then allow the breath to come in and out naturally. Inhale presence. Exhale tension.
  3. On your next exhale, silently count “one.” Let your following inhale be long and full.
  4. Count your next exhale as “two” and continue counting only exhalations until you reach “five.
  5. Once you reach “five,” begin a new cycle at “one.” Do not count higher than “five.” This summons a wandering mind back to the practice.
  6. Continue this pattern for up to 10 minutes.

Breath counting is best learned while closing your eyes in a seated position. As you progress, you may find that you can bring this practice into other rituals. Breathe mindfully as you count to “five” before engaging in a nurturing conversation, while gazing lovingly at yourself in the mirror, or during a cooling shower. It can even make sweeping the floor a more enjoyable and enriching experience—a ritual.

Find more relaxation techniques in SLEEP RITUALS by Jennifer Williamson!


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Excerpted from Sleep Rituals by Jennifer Williamson Copyright © 2019 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash.


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