When the mind is racing out of control, we’re probably in a fight-flight mode. We’re probably feeling stressed and maybe feeling either defensive or reactive. That means that we’re in more of a sympathetic mode of our nervous system. Remember that the exhale is a parasympathetic movement. It calms the body. Each inhale energizes the body and gives us life, and it’s borne of slight fear. Each exhale relaxes the body and brings us into a calmer place.
When you’re feeling like the mind is racing out of control, and you need to slow things down:
- Take a deep breath in.
- Hold it briefly. Then inhale a bit more.
- Pause and very slowly exhale through the mouth.
- Repeat up to three to four times.
This is the same reason it’s hard to be angry and anxious while you’re whistling or humming. The whistling action and the humming action slows the breath down. The longer it slows the exhale down, and the longer you can slow the exhale down, the more relaxed you’ll be. This is one of those techniques that needs practice, so try it a few times, perhaps before meditation. Then you’ll be able to use it when stress hits you. The reason I call it “parachute breath” is that the parachute slows the person down by slowing the flow of air through it. You can think of the exhale as being a very … slowing of the mind.