Looking to reduce anxiety? Feeling weighed down by stress? When your emotions take over, do you feel powerless to stop them?
The good news is that you can put the brakes on – even during the most challenging moments. The quickest way to calm your mind is to bring your attention to your body, and focus on your breath. By following breathwork techniques on a regular basis, you will notice a positive shift in your mental and physical health.
Breathwork encompasses different types of breathing exercises, each one designed to improve your wellbeing. Whether your goal is to relax, increase your energy or raise your mind-body awareness, breathwork can help.
Studies show “evidence of increased psychophysiological flexibility linking parasympathetic activity, CNS activities related to emotional control and psychological well-being in healthy subjects during slow breathing techniques.”
Ready to transform your health? Try these four breathwork techniques:
1. Box Breathing
This exercise is all about slow and deep inhalations and exhalations. Research shows box breathing can strengthen attention, reduce stress, and improve nervous system function.
Deep breathing triggers a calming physiological response in the body. Specifically, it stimulates the hypothalamus, which controls hormone activity. Breathing slowly inhibits the production of cortisol (the stress hormone), inducing a relaxing effect.
How to do it:
1. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath for a count of 4
3. Exhale slowly for a count of 4
2. 4-7-8 Breathing
Inspired by pranayama, 4-7-8 breathing is a popular technique in yoga. Created by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is based on pranayama - a form of breath control used in yoga.
This exercise helps control your breath and increase oxygen flow throughout the body. Created by Dr. Weil, he refers to 4-7-8 breathing as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”
How to do it:
1. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath for a count of 7
3. Exhale through the mouth, and make a “whoosh” sound for a count of 8
3. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Also known as belly breathing, this type of breathwork strengthens your diaphragm, a crucial component in how you breathe.
Diaphragmatic breathing has many health benefits, which include reducing blood pressure, lowering stress, and preventing injury. This breathing technique is designed to improve your endurance and your body’s ability to handle intense exercise.
How to do it:
1. Find a flat surface and lie on your back with bent knees
2. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach
3. Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling the air fill your stomach. Keep the hand on your chest still.
4. Tighten your abdominal muscles and allow them to naturally go inward as you purse your lips and exhale.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing
As the name suggests, this exercise involves breathing in and out of the nose. It is used as a form of breath control in yoga to help clear your energy and remove toxins from your body. Alternative nostril breathing is referred to as “nadi shodhana pranayama” in Sanskrit, which means “subtle energy clearing breathing technique.”
Whether you’re looking to reduce stress or become more connected to the present, alternate nostril breathing is effective. This breathing technique is scientifically-proven to improve endurance, heart func:on, and lung health.
How to do it:
1. Sit in a chair, keeping your spine straight and shoulders back
2. Place your left palm on your leg and bring your right hand up to your face
3. For balance, put your right pointer finger and middle finger between your eyebrows
4. Inhale through your nose.
5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Breathe slowly through the left nostril.
6. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are closed
7. Open your right nostril, exhaling slowly
8. Slowly inhale on the right side
9. Using your ring finger and thumb, hold both nostrils closed
10. Open your left nostril, exhaling slowly
The bottom line is this: when in doubt, just breathe. You’ve got this!