4 Breathing Techniques That Can Help You Chill Out
For many of us, life is jam packed with endless to-do lists and we are constantly on the go. We spend our days running from one big crisis to the next and we rarely give ourselves the time needed to “chill out”. This inability to calm down often leads to feelings of overwhelm, stress, anxiety and ultimately burnout. We have all heard of the many benefits of breathing, but how often do we actually sit down and do the deed? Not only is calming our bodies down important for us physically, but mentally as well. Daily breathing exercises can lead to reductions of blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety. They can also promote feelings of relaxation, happiness and well-being. Who couldn’t use a good dose of this each day? And the great news: all we need is 5-10 minutes a day to reap the benefits of this easy to learn habit! Read on for our top 5 favourite breathing techniques. See if you can try one today!
Abdominal breathing (aka diaphragmatic breathing) is a breathing method in which we practice to use our Diaphragm to breathe rather than our upper lungs and chest. The diaphragm is our bodies main breathing muscle and yet most of us rarely use it. In this exercise, either lay on your back with your knees bent or sit in a comfortable position and place one hand on your chest (upper) and one hand over your belly (lower). Take a long, slow breath in through your nose and try to expand your belly with air so that your lower hand rises outward or upward and then slowly exhale through your nose. Try your best to use your belly and diaphragm whilst letting your chest relax (stay still). Try 6 slow breaths per minute. Build to 5 minutes per day.
Alternate nostril breathing
This technique is amazing for fast stress reduction (think before a big presentation or a first date) or if you are having trouble sleeping. It functions to balance out our left and right brain hemispheres. Sit comfortably with your legs crossed or your feet resting on the floor. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Breathe in slowly for 6 counts through your left nostril then cover that nostril with your right ring finger. Hold the breath with both nostrils closed for a count of 4. Now open your right nostril by removing your right thumb and exhale slowly for the count of 6. Repeat this on the other side. Try to do 5 full breath cycles on each side. You will immediately feel calm and balanced (or be fast asleep within minutes).
Equal breathing technique
This technique is a favourite amongst us Yogi’s as it teaches balance in the mind and body simultaneously. It is also amazing at improving focus and concentration. To do this, sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose for the count of 4. Then exhale slowly for the count of 4, also through your nose. Continue this pattern for 3-5 minutes. As you feel more comfortable with this technique, you can either try increasing the time of each inhale and exhale (aim for counts of 6-8) or try adding a mantra while you breathe for a extra boost of well-being. Simply repeat the mantra in your mind while you breath in and out. Some of our favourite mantras are “Om Shanti Om” (amazing for settling emotions and soothing the heart) and “Ahem Prema” (helps us embody love). You can also use your own words as a mantra such as "peace", "love" or "calm". Whatever your body and mind need in that moment will do the trick!
If the idea of sitting quietly and practicing your breath is daunting to you, then a great option is to try a guided visualization. This is where you sit quietly and listen to someone’s voice guide you through a breathing practice, mindfulness technique, or meditation. These can be a perfect introduction to breathing as all you need is a quiet, comfortable place to sit and your phone or iPad. There are plenty of apps out there today where you can find countless of these. And there is a guided visualization for everything (think, drift off to sleep with ease, release negativity, increase your feeling of balance and wellbeing, improve your concentration and focus). Some of our fav apps that you can check out are Omvana, Calm, Buddhify, and Headspace.
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