Breathe Into Calmness With 3 Deep Breathing Exercises
When faced with anxiety and stress, our bodies think that we are in imminent danger. So, our bodies get ready to fight or run. Breath gets shorter, our heart rate spikes, and—depending on how you respond—it can get pretty scary. The good news is, breathing can help. Today we want to walk through three breathing techniques with you to give you tools to ground yourself as you move forward.
Breathing In Yoga And Meditation
You may notice that yoga and meditation classes take a lot of time covering breath. In yoga, breathing correctly helps you to avoid injury and helps to ground your mind, bringing you into the present moment. In meditation, the sentiment is similar. Meditation asks you to focus inward, and in doing so, it is helpful to focus on something. Breath is the perfect point-of-focus because it happens on rhythm, all of the time, and slowing it down is good for our bodies.
Why Does Deep Breathing Calm Us Down?
Remember that fight or flight response we talked about earlier? That is a response from one of the two parts of your nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is there to help you when you are in danger. It gets your body ready to run or fight and sends extra energy through your veins. You might have felt that energy if you’ve experienced anxiety. Nowadays, we don’t have to be ready at all times to fight or run away from a tiger at a moment’s notice, but our responses remain and manifest via anxiety. But, on the opposite side, our parasympathetic nervous system helps us to rest and relax.
Breathing Exercises To Help You Calm Down
There are several breathing exercises that you can try to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system. We want to lay out a few for you so that you can try them out and keep them in mind the next time you need to take a pause.
1 | Equal Breathing
Sama vritti is a pranayama practice that has you focus on equal breathing. This is a great place to start in your intentional breathing path because anyone can do it.
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position
- Notice your breath without changing it
- After 5 to 10 seconds, start to inhale for 3-5 seconds
- Pause at the top of your inhale
- Exhale for the same amount of time (3-5 seconds)
- Pause at your exhale
2 | 4 7 8 Breathing Technique
This practice is similar to equal breathing and can induce calming effects—it’s even helpful for falling asleep. It is a yoga tradition that you can do in any position that is comfortable for you.
- Fully exhale all of your breath out of your lungs
- Lightly place the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth which will leave you with a slightly opened mouth
- Now, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath at the top of your inhale for 7 seconds
- Exhale your breath—slowly— for 8 seconds
- Repeat four times
This is a practice which means it may be challenging to get through any of these steps at first. If you practice every day, you will find that this technique—which takes about 30 seconds—can induce the sense of calmness that you need to tackle your day or get ready to sleep.
3 | Deep Breathing
Often, we forget to fill our bellies with breath and allow these large inhales and exhales. That’s because we’ve learned to breathe up in our chests, not allowing our belly to round out and fill with air. So, this is a simple exercise that is going to feel fantastic and get us back into belly breathing. For this, we recommend you lay down on your back.
- Place your hand on your belly and breathe normally for a few breaths
- When you are ready, gently close your eyes
- At the end of an exhale, take a big breath through your nostrils, feeling your belly as it expands, and your lungs get filled with air. (Do you feel the difference?)
- Pause for a moment
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whoooooosh sound. Slowly letting all of the air out of your lungs
- Repeat until desired
- Slowly open your eyes and, without thinking, breathe normally
Deep breathing techniques take anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes a day. You can practice just as you wake up or just before bed. Most experts recommend practicing multiple times a day when possible, especially in moments of overwhelm. When you are mindful of your breath, you are equipped with the tools you need to calm yourself.
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