The breath has the power to heal our minds and bodies in unbelievable ways – we’ve just forgotten that breathing is happening 24/7 because it’s done unconsciously.
Think about the many stressful or anxious situations where the first instruction is ‘take deep breaths, focus on your breath’ – it’s a well-known stress reliever with the power to activate the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for restoring calm after the stress response has been triggered.
You may have observed a baby breathing and noticed that the entirety of its body moves with each breath. Given babies are not lost in their thinking mind, they fully breathe – notice their little belly expanding and filling up with air on the inhale and on the exhale, the gentle contraction of the belly. Fully inhaling, fully exhaling.
Here are a few breathing techniques that will have you focusing on the breath, help you tune into your body, calm your mind and experience some clarity:
*consult your physician or GP before attempting breathing exercises if necessary
1. Box Breathing(or square breathing)
This technique has been proven to improve performance and concentration, as well as reduce stress. Athletes, actors, Navy SEALS and nurses have all benefitted from this form of slow, deep and intentional breathing.
Technique: Find a quiet place with no distractions if possible, sitting comfortably upright, feel your feet flat on the floor.
- exhaling to a count of four (slowly count to 4 in your head)
- holding your lungs empty to a count of four
- inhaling slowly to a count of four
- holding air in your lungs for a count of four
Repeat: exhaling for a count of four and so on (4 x 4 x 4 x4)
2. Belly Breathing:
Place one hand on your lower belly and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Your abdomen expands as you inhale. As you exhale, blow out through your mouth and feel your stomach contract, then release. Repeat this for three to five minutes to revitalize your body. Notice the difference you feel. It’s okay if you get distracted, whenever you notice your mind has been pulled away, kindly guide your focus back to the belly area.
3. Resonance Breathing
Resonance breathing, also called coherent breathing, can help calm anxiety and get into a relaxed state.
o Lie down and close your eyes.
o Gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of 6seconds Don’t fill your lungs too full of air.
o Exhale for 6 seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently. Don’t force it.
o Continue for up to 10 minutes.
o Take a few additional minutes to be still and focus on how your body feels.
4. Ujjayi Pranayama (meaning Victorious Breath)
This is a foundation breathing technique within yoga practice (mainly ashtanga &vinyasa) and often referred to ‘ocean’s breath’ due to the sounds it makes.
Find a place where you can sit comfortably with a straight spine. Take a steady breath in through both nostrils. Inhale until you reach your lung capacity; maintain a tall spine (as best you can). Hold your breath for a second, then constrict some of the breath at the back of your throat, as if you were about to whisper a secret, and exhale slowly through both nostrils. This exhalation will sound like an ocean wave or gentle rush of air. You should feel the air on the roof of your mouth as you exhale. Repeat up to 20 times.