“Just breathe.” “Take a breath.” “Relax.” Whenever a stressful situation arises, someone is always quick to offer one of these helpful tips, but sometimes that feels easier said than done. The pandemic has brought steep learning curves and greater obstacles to our already over-scheduled lives. Taking that breath, though, it really can help you navigate your stress. Here are 7 breathing exercises to help you relax and improve your general health.
1. Deep Breathing
We have all heard someone say, “Take a deep breath,” and here's why. It prevents air from trapping in the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can be a symptom of or lead to anxiety. Here is how to do it: With an erect posture, pull your shoulders back to expand your chest. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Hold it for a count of five and then slowly try to exhale all of the air through your nose. Concentrate on pushing out every last drop. This is deep “cleaning” for the lungs. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
2. Equal Breathing
With this technique, you focus on maintaining an equal length for your inhales and exhales. Choose a length that is easy to maintain and won’t cause you to rush, such as 3-5 seconds per inhale and exhale. Just as with deep breathing, expand your chest and breathe in gently through your nose. Count the seconds in your mind. Pause briefly after the inhale and then breathe out for an equal number of seconds. Pause. Repeat for 3-5 minutes. Focusing on the equal length of breaths and pacing is calming because it causes the mind to focus on something besides your thoughts. This breathing technique is a form of meditation.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Some claim this technique is energizing, and others say it is relaxing. These effects come because it refocuses your mind and refreshes your system with clean oxygen. Traditionally, one lowers the pointer and middle fingers to the palm to use the thumb and the ring finger for this technique, but you can do whatever feels most natural to you. Start in an upright posture. If you are using your right hand, use the thumb to press your right nostril closed. Inhale through the left nostril, and at the peak of the inhale, use the ring finger to press the left nostril closed and exhale through the right nostril. Proceed this way for 1-2 minutes and then alternate, inhaling through the left and exhaling through the right. This breathing technique also works to focus the mind.
4. Abdominal Breathing
This technique can be especially helpful when you are preparing to undertake a stressful task. Place on hand on your chest and one on your belly. Take deep, slow breaths while focusing on expanding your diaphragm and not your stomach. Aim for 6-10 breaths per minute and continue this practice for 5-10 minutes. Experts say that practicing abdominal breathing daily can help lower blood pressure and heart rate.
5. Pursed Lip Breathing
Have you ever felt out of breath doing seemingly minor exercises? Because you have to make a deliberate effort to breathe. This technique helps you slow down your breathing and can be useful when you are exerting physical effort such as climbing stairs, making it less stressful. Try to relax your neck and shoulders. Inhale through your nose for a count of 2 and as you exhale, purse your lips like you are going to whistle, and exhale for a count of 4.
6. Humming Bee Breath
This form of breathing meditation may require a solitary or private location, or a very understanding office mate. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax your face. Place your index fingers on the corresponding tragus (the flap of cartilage at the front of your ear). Inhale slowly and then close your ear canal by pressing gently on your tragi. Hum lightly as you exhale. Continue for a few minutes.
7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This technique works best when you are in a comfortable location where you can recline. Lay back in a comfortable position. Focus on breathing gently and tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Start with your feet, then your lower legs, then upper legs, then glutes, and progress throughout the body, one by one. You can either breathe gently through the whole process or breathe in, hold your breath for a few seconds while you tense the muscle group, and then exhale as you release the tension. This is an easy way to check in with your body at the end of the day and to settle your mind for sleep.Practicing a breathing technique every day can help you manage your stress throughout your life and help you face stressful situations more calmly even if you don’t have time in the moment to pause for that breath. Along with nutritious eating (adding Superberries Aroniaberry Products to your diet) and exercise, this is the one tool to help you maintain your health and well-being. So, relax. Take a breath.