Five Minutes of Bliss: Relaxation Breath

Here's what I love about this week's practice. It is so simple and unobtrusive, you can do it anywhere. On line at the grocery store check out, no problem. At your desk while the boss is yelling (again) or the computer is frozen (again), no sweat. Driving with a car full of fighting kids, no worries. No kidding. This breathing exercise, appropriately named, relaxation breath, will take you back to a calm state when your fight or flight response is just getting going.
My understanding is that my teacher Sri Yogi Dharma Mittra developed this practice so he could settle during his lunch hour without calling attention to himself. Since it is so versatile, effective and easy to do, it is the pranayama I teach the most and a practice I reach for regularly, when things get hectic and I feel my body tightening.

Image by mrhayata, licensed by Creative Commons.

Here's how:
Come to a comfortable position, back straight, head erect, shoulders back and down. Inhale through the nose for 8 counts, hold for 4, exhale for 8. Repeat. That's it. Within 6 cycles you will trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, slowing your heart rate, your metabolism and your mind. You will feel relaxed and energized and be happy to wait in line, take verbal abuse or ignore what is going on in the back seat for as long as you need to. This is a rare gem of an exercise since it is so simple, versatile and effective. In 8, hold 4, out 8, repeat. 2 minutes minimum is recommended (6-8 breaths). More will only make the relaxation deeper so feel free to keep going.

When you do this and have some positive experiences to share or any questions, I'd love to hear about it.