Are you underslept, under pressure of overworked? There are various ways to calm yourself, without spending money on spa massages. You just need to breathe for about 10 minutes.
Don’t wait until the acute stress response kicks in before paying attention to the breath. Controlled breathing maintains the most optimal functioning of the body and mind, but it also reduces the blood pressure, de-stresses us and makes us relaxed and calm.
Even though the impact of the breathing techniques on anxiety still hasn’t been studied in detail, at least not in a clinical setting, experts suggest using breathing techniques as a way to increase the mindfulness, awareness, or as yogis know – discovering the state of Zen.
But as many experts say (Dr. Alison McConnell, Rebecca Pacheo, Dr. Ellen Langer) proper breathing is not as easy as it sounds.
But whether you are at home, at work or someplace that triggers negativity, try these six breathing exercises that will help you return to a calm state.
1. Equal breathing or Sama Vritti
How to do it: Balance is the key to normal functioning, and this includes the breath too. Start by inhaling on the count to four, and exhale on the count of four through the nose – this will give a natural resistance to the breath. If you already know the basic pranayama techniques you can increase the count per breath to six or eight but keep the main objective in mind – calm the mind, reduce stress and become more focused.
When to use it: Anyplace and anytime, even though it is particularly effective before going to bed. It works just like counting sheep – if you have trouble falling asleep the technique will calm the racing thoughts and everything that keeps you awake.
2. Abdominal Breathing
How to do it: Place one arm on the stomach and the other on the chest, inhale through the nose, making sure that the diaphragm inflates to stretch the lungs (not the chest). Take six to ten such deep and slow breaths in a minute, for ten minutes every day to reduce blood pressure and the heart rate. If you do this for a period of 6-8 weeks the effects will be more lasting.
When to use it: Before stressful situations, for example, before an exam. But you should know that if you are one of those persons that are constantly under stress, you may experience difficulties controlling the breath. If this is the case, you may want to use an application to train your breath, such as Breathe Strong – this will help you breathe properly wherever you are.
3. Alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhana
How to do it: This is every yogi’s favorite breathing technique, that calms and balances the body and mind and unites both sides of the brain. Sit in a comfortable meditative pose, place the right thumb on the right nostril and take a deep breath through the left one. At the peak, close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right one. Repeat this cycle for 5-10 minutes.
When to use it: Every time you need to be energized or focused. But don’t do it before going to sleep – the technique clears the channels and makes you more awake – just like drinking a cup of coffee.
4. Skull Shining Breath or Kapalabhati
How to do it: It is said that this technique will make you shine both forms the inside and the outside. Start by taking a slow and long breath, followed by a powerful and quick exhale from the lower part of the stomach. Once you become comfortable with the contractions, speed the pace to one cycle of inhaling and exhaling in every 1-2 seconds, and take a total of ten breaths.
When to do it: When you want to wake yourself up or when you are ready to become positive. It seems intense for the abdominal area but it will warm up your body, eliminate stale energy and it will completely wake you up. If Nadi Shodana was compared to a cup of coffee, Kapalabhati is like an energy drink.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
How to do it: If you want to eliminate tension from the whole body, squeeze and release every muscle for a few seconds each. Begin with the toes and move upwards to the calves, buttocks, stomach, chest, back, arms, shoulders, neck, mouth, eyes, and forehead maintaining slow breaths. If you can’t keep track take a deep breath through the nose, hold it for five seconds while tensing the muscles and exhale through the mouth to release them.
When to do it: You can do this technique everywhere. But keep this in mind: your goal is not dizziness. If you hold the breath for too long, shorten the time to feel comfortable.
6. Guided Visualization
How to do it: This technique brings an instant balance inside and out. With the help of a therapist, coach or even a recorded tape, take deep breaths by thinking about positive and pleasant images in order to replace the unpleasant ones. The guided visualization is a way to achieve mindfulness and to replace the stressful dialogues in your head with positive and calm thoughts.
When to do it: Everywhere you feel safe to close the eyes and let go of the problems.
Even though we can’t avoid frustration and everyday stressful situations, our breath is always here to calm us down.