Don’t underestimate the power of breathing exercises. They are recognized for their efficacy in treating anxiety and are a powerful aspect of yoga and meditative practices. Their beauty lies in that they are easy and can be done anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. Here are some to try when you need to stave off anxiety, relax after a tough day or just to have a clearer mind.
One process that gives you all the benefits of breathing exercises is known as 'equal breathing'. Equal breathing is all about reaching an inner balance starting with you breathing. The method is to inhale through the nose for a count of four, then exhale through the nose for a matching count of four. Sure, this one is extremely basic but it gives you the base for controlling your breathing and being able to explore more intricate exercises later on.
Resting one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach, inhale deeply through the nose and ensure that your diaphragm takes in enough air to cause a slight stretching of the lungs. Repeat this each between six and ten times depending on how you feel and you should being to feel an immediate impact on your heart rate and blood pressure. This is a great relaxer for stressful events.
To try and relieve whole body tension from head to toe, close your eyes and focus your mind on tensing and then relaxing each different muscle groups for about two or three seconds at a time. Start from the bottom with your feet and toes and gradually work upwards through your legs, glutes, chest and arms all the way up to your jaw and neck. If you concentrate hard enough you can even work out your eyes for a few seconds! And how is this a breathing exercise? Because while you’re doing it, breathe in through the nose holding for a count of five while the muscles tense, then breathe out through the mouth on release. Be cautious with this exercise though, overdoing it can cause slight dizziness.
This exercise is also known as the 'yogi's best friend', bringing calm and balance between both the left and right sides of your brain. While sitting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold you right thumb over your right nostril and proceed to inhale deeply through the left. At the maximum stage of inhalation, switch thumbs, closing off the left nostril and exhaling strongly through the right. Continuing in this pattern can help to both focus and energize your mind.
For this exercise you need to head straight for your happy place. Using a coach, therapist or even an online guide to help you if you can’t do it by yourself, begin to breathe deeply while focusing on as many pleasant things as you can think of, replacing all negative thoughts with more positive ones. This works 100 times better if you are in a situation where you can close your eyes to visualize stronger, so don't try doing this in the car!
Skull shining begins with a long, deep inhale and concludes with a quick, strong exhale that you generate from your lower belly. When you have got the hang of the exercise, the goal is to up the pace and do it every two seconds for a total of ten reps. The exercise is intensive for the abdomen, but it is perfect for warming up in the morning and shaking off any stale energy that you might be carrying around.
This modern technique has been proven to be really effective in reducing a stressful situation. The trick is to exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound as you go, and then closing your mouth and inhaling quietly through your nose for a four count. Hold this breath for roughly seven seconds, then slowly exhale and repeat again. The control that this exercise brings you is really satisfying.
With this breathing technique, you count only your exhale breaths and you never count beyond five. This forces you to stay focused on your breathing which will help center you and de-stress. If you catch yourself on eight or 15, you know you've lost focus. Try doing this for 10 minutes and really bring your focus back to Earth and out of the lost thoughts of your mind and emotions.
The art of body scan mediation is wonderful for those looking to de-stress and curb anxiety. It focuses on different parts of the body. A lot like progressive muscle relaxation mentioned earlier, this one focuses on how your different body parts feel vs focusing on tensing them. Moving focus from toes all the way up, noticing how your body feels and helping each part relax.
Do you do breathing exercises? Do you find them helpful? Please share!
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