The 7/11 breathing technique stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (the opposite of Fight/Flight) which has the effect of decreasing blood pressure, slowing our heart rate and reducing emotional arousal by increasing blood flow to the brain's pre-frontal cortex – all of which contributes to lower stress levels. And thanks to our clever bodies, we can’t be stressed and relaxed at the same time!
You can do this anywhere once you’ve got the hang of it (and perhaps consider incorporating it into your day whenever you feel like you need a moment to recharge or take stock). 5 minutes is enough to really feel the benefit too.
Settle yourself comfortably (preferably in a place where you won’t be disturbed, that could even be the loo if your home has lost its quiet spaces!).
1. Sit or lie comfortably with your hands side by side in your lap, or your arms by your side and your legs uncrossed.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Now concentrate on becoming aware of your feet on the floor, of your legs and arms, wherever they are resting and your head against the cushion, pillow or chair back.
4. Drop your shoulders and take in as deep a breath (through your nose) as you can manage. The air is pulled down to the bottom of your lungs when you breathe in deeply and this makes your stomach inflate, like a balloon. So, to make sure you are breathing deeply, it can help if you put your hand on your stomach and feel it swelling. Do this for a count of 7 (or 5).
5. Now breathe out through your nose (not your mouth) – you will feel your stomach deflate. Count to 11 (or 7) if you can, but if you need to start smaller than that just make sure that the in breath is always shorter than the out breath. This is important because it’s the out breath that stimulates the body’s natural relaxation response. By changing your pattern of breathing in this way, your body automatically begins to relax. This doesn’t simply invoke a state of mind but a physical response – you can’t help but become less stressed!
6. Do this slow breathing between 10 and 20 times, knowing that you will relax even more with each out breath.
7. Concentrate on the counting. Try not to let your mind wander off but if it does, just bring your attention back to the counting.
8. Try also to be aware of how much calmer you feel, just by relaxing your breathing.
9. Most importantly – persevere! Most people who are feeling stressed and anxious breath too shallowly. They take quick, short breaths that take air down no further than the top of the lungs.
If your shoulders rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out, you are taking shallow breaths. And if that is the case, breathing in the new way may feel odd to you at first but it really is worth persevering. The more you practice, the more your body will remember what it needs to do.