Breathing. Do you think about it? You really should. Mindful breathing while going through a mental relaxation technique is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce your pain. Stress from the daily life, and the stress on your body pain causes can be significantly reduced by using relaxation techniques and these always include breathing.
Breathing is so automatic hardly anyone thinks about it, as a T’ai Chi practitioner I always try to focus on how I breathe. And I definitely notice a difference in myself before and after practicing and when using the same techniques to relax. I also am able to tolerate longer sessions of Graston if I am focused on breathing. Since pain can make you involuntarily hold your breath, it is extremely important to focus on deep breaths when you have a lot of pain.
The first reason is it is calming, and it does distract you a bit from the pain. The second reason is chemistry, everyone knows about endorphins and that they are released by the body to deal with a plethora of things, but most commonly known for pain. There have been lab studies stating that in a relaxed state, we produce more of these endorphins than the usual resting state. Adding in some deep breathing and you increase the oxygen in your blood which allows more production and better absorption of those chemicals so your body can naturally deal with pain. Endorphins are basically opiates chemically and can deal with pain extremely effectively, and all it takes to take advantage of this is just relaxing.
There are loads of relaxation techniques and ways to do this, personally I prefer T’ai Chi, but there is also Yoga, meditation, abdominal breathing, stretching, light exercise (like walking), mental and body relaxation techniques. Any of them are effective, pick the one that you enjoy most and is most effective for you. Some simple ones you can start with are:
Sit down, on a stool preferably, low chair with no back, or with legs crossed on the ground. Place your hands on your stomach right below your belly button. Breathe in deeply and slowly, you should feel like your belly is inflating and deflating with each breath. Sit for at the very minimum of 5 minutes doing this, but the longer you do so the more beneficial it is. Focus completely on your breathing and filling up slowly with as much air as possible, and then exhaling as slow as possible until you feel you are deflated completely.
Picture a cube or another shape with corners in 3 dimensions in you mind. Start on one corner and trace the edge of the shape in your mind inhaling as you go, as slowly as you can. When you reach the corner go down the next edge exhaling as slowly as possible. Rinse and repeat!
Body Relaxation Exercise
Lay down if possible, if not sit again on a low chair, stool or on the floor. Start with your “pinky” toe, on each side and thing about relaxing all the muscles for that toe. Continue to the next toe relaxing it and move up through the body relaxing each part fully as you go. It may help at first to slightly tense that part and then relax it in time with an inhale to tense and exhale to relax. Make sure you are breathing in a natural and easy manner, and completely focus on relaxing each part as you go.
ProTip: If you are having trouble keeping your mind focused on this one, imagine you are drawing your blood, or imagine drawing in the tension as a color of light you find pleasing, you can use those images to help keep the mind engaged and focused on relaxing your body.
These are all great ways to relax, and there are other techniques out there than just the few I have mentioned. Remember that every person is different and you will need to try a few to find the one that works best for you. I did Yoga for many years and thought it was tops in body/mind relaxing, but then after looking into T’ai Chi I found it much more suited my extremely active mind giving it a lot to focus on therefore keeping it engaged and focused on the task at hand and not the world going on about me. It may not be the thing for you, so give a few things a try for at least a week each before making a decision.
To not take advantage of this, would be silly, I mean your body makes FREE, effective pain killers. Plus it just makes you a happier person, and really doesn’t take that much effort. Remember stress kills! Keep it mellow!