You had a rough day, you get into your car, you take a big inhale and then…ahhhhhh—you let all that crap out. “Take a deep breath,” they say, “you’ll feel better,” they say. Everyday our thoughts and emotions have the ability to influence our physical states. Ever noticed how a stressful moment leads you to taking rapid, short breaths of air? This is how your body is choosing to react to the stressors in your life. So it’s no surprise that in order to calm ourselves, we are required to do the exact opposite; long deep breathes. This is old news for yogis who know that pranayama is used to control our breathing and shut down anxious thoughts during their practice.
Taking deep breaths is a very efficient way of reducing stress. It’s been scientifically proven to slow your heart rate, improve the immune system, lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Here are three breathing exercises to help you get your breath back!
Belly Breathing. Also known as abdominal breathing, this technique is quite simple and consists of long, slow, deep breaths. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a deep breath through your nose and make sure your diaphragm, not your chest, fills with air. With every breath, you become calm and focused and all those distracting thoughts and sensations begin to subside.
Alternate Nostril Breathing. This exercise, also known as Nadi Shodhana, has always been a staple breathing exercise for yogis. It is a powerful breathing practice with wide reaching benefits. It is known to reduces stress and anxiety, calm and rejuvenate the nervous system, aid in balancing hormones, support clear and balanced respiratory channels, and the list continues. Watch this video for instructions on how to perform alternate nostril breathing and instantly experience a sense of alertness, making you feel ready to take on the world.
Equal Breathing. In yoga, this breathing technique is called Sama Vritti Pranayama and can be practiced anytime, anywhere. The instructions are simple; all while maintaining breath exclusively through the nose, inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four—hence the name ‘equal breathing.’ This technique is known to promote balance in the mind and reduce anxiety.
- Laura Keen