Breathing is the essence of life, is it not?! 🌬
We all feel that sense of ease in our breathing when we’re having a good day. 💆♀️ Of course, we’ve also felt our breathing and heart rate speed up during those particularly stressful moments in life, causing us to feel yucky both physically and mentally. 📈
When it comes to improving health, you might think we’re better off focusing strictly on factors like diet and exercise, since breathing is already automatic. After all, as long as we’re getting the air that we need, it doesn’t matter how we get it, right? 🤔
Actually, QUITE the opposite!! 😲
Recent research now reveals how we breathe has a massive impact on many facets of our health, including:
🧨 stress levels
✨ and even reducing symptoms of anxiety!
The best part of all? Breathing is completely within our control!
That said, it will probably take some practice to manage and maximize our breathing to reap these many benefits. Curious to try it? Here are some breathing exercises for stress relief and anxiety for you to try out! 👇
1. Belly Breathing - This method is helpful for calming anxiety. Just be sure to breathe slowly. By expanding the belly, you allow deeper breaths to happen, to ensure you’re not just breathing into the top of your lungs.
➡️ Rest one hand on your belly at your navel.
➡️ As you inhale, breathe down deep and push your belly it so you feel your hands rising with your breath as it rests on your belly.
➡️ On the exhale, allow your belly to relax.
➡️ Repeat for 5 breaths.
2. 4x4x4 Breaths/Box Breathing - This method creates a rhythm that can be a helpful reminder to the body to take deeper breaths.
➡️ Inhale for a count of 4.
➡️ Hold the breath for 4.
➡️ Then echale to a count of 4.
➡️ Repeat for 5-10 cycles.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing - This is a common yoga breathing exercise for stress relief, called Nadi Shodhana. This method is said to reduce stress, enhance focus, and restore balance to the mind and body – one of the best breathing exercises for stress.
➡️ Sit up straight in a comfortable position. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
➡️ Slowly inhale and then exhale through the left nostril.
➡️ At the bottom of the exhale, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, while releasing your thumb from the right nostril.
➡️ Now inhale and exhale through the right nostril.
➡️ Repeat for 5-10 cycles.
4. Mindfulness Breathing/Meditation - This breathing practice is more closely ties to meditation than the others. Here’s how it works:
➡️ Sit up straight but not stiff, close your eyes and breathe at a normal pace.
➡️ At the end of your exhale, count to1 to yourself.
` ➡️ After the next exhale, count to 2.
➡️ Follow this pattern up to a count of 5, and then start over at 1.
➡️ Repeat for 5 minutes or so.
Throughout the practice, try not to engage with any other thoughts that might pop up in your mind. You’ll notice you’re distracted when you’ve been breathing without counting, or when you notice you’ve counted past 5. It’s also important to not chastise yourself for getting caught up in your thoughts–just return to your breath and start counting again!
5. Lion’s Breath - The lion’s breath exercise is great at reducing tension in your face, clearing your throat, and relaxing your vocal cords. Here’s how to do it:
➡️ Sit somewhere comfortable, preferably on the ground.
➡️ Lean forward and place your hands on the floor.
➡️ Spread your fingers wide.
➡️ Inhale through your nose.
➡️ Open your mouth, stick out your tongue, and point it down towards your chin.
➡️ Exhale strongly, and make a “haa” sound as you do so.
➡️ Breathe as you normally would do for a few seconds.
➡️ Repeat for a few rounds–up to 7 times.
➡️ Close out the exercise by taking a few more deep breaths.
You can also engage in aerobic exercise to build lung capacity and practice taking deep belly breaths. 🫁 Running is especially great for this! While you run, be mindful of how you breathe. 🏃♀️ It may feel off at first, but taking belly breaths while running can improve your running performance and help you breathe deeply while you are going about your day! ☀️
With these strategies, you will be on your way to retraining and reinforcing optimal breathing habits! 💪 It should be noted that none of the above are recommended as replacement for medical treatment. Talk to your doctor before undergoing any major changes with breathing behaviors.