We breathe involuntarily. And — unless we’ve recently dined on onions and garlic — most of the time, we don’t pay much attention to our breath.
The rate at which we breathe connects to our emotions. Think back to a moment during which you were frightened or excited. While your heart rate increased, so did your breathing! Managing your breath is essential to control your general mood.
Incorporating breathing exercises in your day-to-day life is hugely beneficial. Breathing exercises helps to bring your mind and body to the point of relaxation and promote well-being. Which, let's be real, is something we’re all in need of.
What is Mindful Breathing?
Mindful thinking harnesses the power of your breath to relieve stress, reestablish inner calm, and ground yourself in the present moment. It is a basic yet powerful mindful meditation practice. It's a way to bring your breathing to its natural rhythm and flow by simply focusing your attention on the way it feels each time you breathe in and out.1
Mindful breathing brings together the benefits of deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques. Mindful breathing meditation can give you a greater sense of control, calm, peace, happiness, and self-awareness, even after your practice is complete for the day.
Equal breathing is a type of deep breathing exercise dating back to the ancient practice of pranayama yoga. You’ll inhale the same amount of air as you exhale. You can perform equal breathing while seated or in a lying-down position. The important thing is you’re comfortable.
As you start, pay attention to the way you usually breathe, preferably with your eyes closed. Then, slowly count from one to four as you breathe through your nose and then breathe out for the same four-second count. As you do this, pay attention to the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.2
Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, encourages full oxygen exchange and strengthens your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle just below your lungs aiding in breathing. It enables us to take deep, refreshing breaths. An abdominal deep breathing exercise can lower or stabilize blood pressure by slowing your heartbeat. It's the basis of many meditation and relaxation techniques.
Practice this breathing technique by lying back on a flat surface with your knees bent. With one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, inhale slowly through your nose. As air enters deeply into your stomach, the hand on your chest should remain still and the one on your belly rises. Finally, tighten your abdominal muscles as you breathe out and let them fall inward.3
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana pranayama, is a subtle energy clearing deep breathing exercise. It is usually incorporated as part of yoga or meditation. It can help to reduce anxiety, relax your body and mind, and promote overall well-being.
Start by sitting with your legs crossed with your left hand on your left knee. Breathe out while closing your right nostril with your thumb. Then, close the opposite nostril and breathe in. Open the right nostril and breathe out, then breathe in and close this nostril. Open the left nostril and breathe out. Repeat the cycle up to five times.4
Four-seven-eight breathing is a fairly simple technique. It involves breathing in for four seconds, holding it in for seven seconds, and then breathing out for eight seconds. The 4-7-8 breathing technique helps to decrease anxiety, promote more restful sleep, and reduce anger responses.
Start by emptying your lungs of air. Then breathe in through your nose as you count 1-2-3-4. Hold your breath, and count for seven seconds. Finally, breathe out your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle four times.5
These breathing exercises for relaxation can help you meditate better as well as offering a host of other healthy benefits. And the best part? You’ll start seeing some of the results almost immediately. What are you waiting for? Get in a comfortable position, and try any one of these!