Breathing is a quick and easy way to reduce stress at a moments notice.Your mind and body can benefit in a variety of ways when you start breathing deeply on a regular basis. Learning how to breathe deeply can help lower your blood pressure, increase your cardiovascular strength, reduce anxiety, and boost your overall energy levels.
Most techniques build on the basic definition of deep breathing: in deep breathing, you work to take in more air and exhale more fully. You want your stomach to rise as you take a breath in, and then you want your stomach to deflate to the point of being tucked in as you breathe out.
There are many breathing techniques you can use to improve your health. This article will outline some of the methods you can use, and how to implement them in your daily life.
Counting Your Breath
Counting your breath is probably the most straight forward method of deep breathing. Using a count of breaths gives your mind something to focus on, and makes it less likely that your mind will wander.
Counting your breath is an easy way to regulate your emotions and become more aware of what is going on in your body. You don’t need any fancy training or guides to breathe in to a count of six, or breathe out to a count of seven, making this a great exercise to get started with.
Meditations and techniques will use different counts depending on the overall end goal. If you’re just getting used to deep breathing, but aren’t ready to use a specific technique yet, it doesn’t particularly matter what number you breathe in or out for. Start with four, and if that doesn’t feel long enough, you can increase it.
The first few times you work on counting your breath, make sure you are in a comfortable position. Find a time during the day when you are less likely to get interrupted, such as right before bed, or when other people in your home are busy.
Also known as Sama Vritti, equal breathing focuses on making the inhale last the same amount of time as the exhale. Sama Vritti literally translates to “same waves”, as it helps balance out your mind and helps focus your attention on your breath.
Here’s an example of how you might use equal breathing to reduce your overall stress levels and bring a sense of balance to your mind.
- Get in a comfortable position and take a few minutes to become aware of your breath. Don’t try to change anything. Notice how many counts you naturally breathe in and out for.
- Once you’ve counted your inhale and exhale a few times, increase each to a count of five. Inhale for five counts, and exhale for five counts. Do this another five to ten rounds.
- If you are comfortable doing so, you can gradually increase each count by one. Check your body for any levels of stress or discomfort.
- If your chest hurts, or if you start to become uncomfortable with the longer counts, go back down by one count.
- After you have done equal breathing for a while, check in with your body. How are your stress levels? Do you feel more relaxed than before? If there is still some tension in your body, it’s okay to continue breathing for a few more rounds.
Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing encourages you to breathe from your stomach. You’re actually breathing using your diaphragm, which is located near the abdominal cavity. This muscle makes the breathing process easier on your body, as it makes breathing in and out more efficient.
You might feel self conscious when performing abdominal breathing, as it causes your belly to expand. However, this can be avoided by performing this exercise when no one is around. There’s really nothing to be embarrassed about, your belly expands naturally.
Here is one way you might go about performing abdominal breathing.
- Lie comfortably on your back, and place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. Your stomach should expand as you do so, and your chest should not move much.
- Tighten your stomach muscles as you breath in, visualizing your stomaching reaching towards your back. Try to keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
Skull Shining Breath
Also known as Kapalabhati, the Skull Shining Breath is a great way to release toxins from your body. The breath works well at clearing air passageways by encouraging an invigorating breath. It also works well as a warm up for more complicated breathing techniques often practiced in yoga.
Kapalabhati literally translates to forehead shining. Those who practice the technique sometimes visualize a light in their head, moving through their body as they exhale. This method focuses strongly on a strong and quick exhale preceded by a natural inhale.
Here is a great way to practice the skull shining breath:
- Sit upright with your back straight. Complete a few breath cycles naturally, until you are able to notice your breath.
- Pull your stomach muscles in as you exhale to complete a strong exhale and squeeze all of the breath out of your stomach. At first, it can help to cup your stomach so you can ensure you are contracting all the way.
- Try to have your inhale be four times longer than your exhale.
- Practices suggest repeating the sequence anywhere from 3 to 30 times. Complete the breath as many times as you are comfortable.
478 Breathing Technique
The 478 breathing technique is one of the most effective ways to calm down quickly. Many people use it to help them fall asleep or come down from periods of high anxiety. This technique tends to calm people down quickly, so don’t use if you need to be alert or energetic.
Dr. Andrew Weil came up with the breathing technique as a way to help people deal with upsetting situations.
The technique is really easy to use, as well. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts, and breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. As you breathe out through your mouth, put your tongue on the roof of your mouth to make a whooshing sound. Dr. Weil recommends repeating this cycle four times.
Starting your day with a breathing exercise is a great way to head off stress before it happens. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the health benefits of deep breathing first thing and start your day off right.
When you start your day with a breathing practice, you’re less likely to go into your other obligations with stress and tension. This will make you better able to meet your responsibilities, and reduce your need for a cup of coffee to get through the day.
If you tend to wake up feeling stressed, you can begin with one of the calming exercises mentioned above. Or, if you tend to have a hard time getting out of bend, you can use an energizing technique like the breath of fire.
Here’s how to use the breath of fire:
- Sit up tall and bring your hands to your lower stomach as you close your eyes.
- Keep your mouth closed as you breathe in and out.
- Begin by taking a deep inhale and a deep exhale.
- Then, breathe rapidly in and out so the tip of your nose moves in with the inhale and out with the exhale.
- Your inhale and exhale should be done with equal effort.
- Your breath should be shallow so you can breathe quickly.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed lip breathing is a simple technique that helps control shortness of breath that can come from anxiety or a chronic lung disease.
Pursed lip breathing has a number of health benefits. It releases air trapped in the lungs and keeps the airways open longer, which helps make breathing easier on the body. It also helps to extend the exhale, and by extension slows the breathing rate.
Here is a great way to practice the pursed lip breathing technique:
- Relax your shoulders and place one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your belly.
- Breathe in through your nose for two seconds.
- As you breathe in, your stomach should expand and your chest should stay still.
- When you exhale, gently press on your stomach to help the air get out.
Learning how to breathe deeply to support your health doesn’t have to be difficult. These techniques are a great way to ease anxiety and stress with little side effects. Find a technique that works best for you and implement it regularly for optimal results.