A recent study done by a group of researchers at Yale University found that breathing exercises, when combined with meditation, can help improve stress levels. Stress is a common problem that often comes with a busy lifestyle or having many responsibilities. Whether it is the stress of exams or related to deadlines at work, all of us are constantly under some sort of pressure to perform.
Breathing exercises, especially deep breathing, is one of the best ways to combat stress. It helps bring down your heart rate and blood pressure and helps you relax. And the best part is they can be done anywhere and anytime.
Here are five simple breathing exercises you can give a try:
1. Belly breathing
This is one of the most common breathing exercises to help relieve stress. Here is how you can do it:
- Lie down on your bed or sit in a comfortable chair.
- Now, put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen right below your ribs.
- Inhale slowly, feeling your belly rise and push your hand. Try to keep your other hand still, your chest should not rise.
- Exhale through pursed lips until you feel all the air go out of your stomach.
- Repeat 5-10 times or as required.
2. Breath focus
Breath focus helps bring your focus onto your breathing and helps you avoid distractions while you are practising breathing exercises. It is as easy as it sounds.
- Just breathe normally and try to focus on your breathing.
- Inhale through your nose, let your chest and belly fill up with your breath.
- Then, gently exhale through your mouth or nose, whichever suits you.
It is best that you practice breath focus before starting with the deep breathing exercises since it will help you do the latter more easily.
3. 4-7-8 breathing
The 4-7-8 technique is also calling ‘relaxing breath’ and can help reduce anxiety and aid sleep. This is a type of belly breathing that is done in the following way:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Put one of your hands on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen right below the ribs.
- Now, using the belly breathing technique, breathe in as you count to 4.
- Hold your breath now and count to 7.
- Count to 8 while you exhale.
- Repeat this process 5-10 times.
4. Alternate breathing (Anulom vilom)
Anulom vilom or alternate breathing is yet another breathing technique that can help you relax. It is also believed to help alleviate anxiety and depression. Here is how you can practice this exercise:
- Sit down in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and practice breath focus for a while, this will help you calm down a bit.
- Now, put your right thumb on your right nostril in such a way that it blocks the passage of air through that nostril.
- Gently, inhale through your left nostril.
- Now put your little and ring finger on your left nostril to block the passage of air and hold your breath in for a few seconds.
- Keep your left nostril closed and release your right nostril.
- Gently exhale through your right nostril, so it takes longer for you to exhale than it took to inhale. Try to achieve a 1:2 ratio if possible.
- Breathe in through the right nostril and repeat the whole process on the opposite side.
- You can do about five to six such cycles every day.
5. Roll breathing
This exercise is yet another kind of belly breathing. Along with managing stress, it also helps you make full use of your lungs. Here is how you can do roll breathing:
- Start with belly breathing. Put your left hand on your chest and your right hand on your abdomen right below your ribs.
- Practice belly breathing two to three times.
- Now, inhale and fill up your belly but keep on filling your chest/lungs too. Your left hand will rise after your right hand.
- Now, exhale slowly with pursed lips, starting from your belly and then up to your chest. Your right hand will come down first followed by your left hand.
- Repeat the process about five times.
For more information, read our article on How to reduce the effects of work-related stress.
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