We are living in a world with a fast pace of lifestyle. We could easily get affected by the things and people around us. What if there was a way to decrease stress, ease anxiety, improve sleep and boost your mood - and you could do it anywhere, at any time? How about also helping to relieve COPD and blood pressure problems? Interested? You're in luck, because this already exists. It's time to introduce breathing exercises into your daily routine.
What Are Breathing Exercises and What Are They For?
Breathing exercises and techniques sound a little funny at first: After all, don't we all know how to breathe? Using specific breathing techniques and breath control, however, means that you're being mindful about the way you breathe in and out. By purposefully changing the way we breathe, we can change the way we feel and how our bodies react to what's going on around us.
5 Different Types of Breathing Exercises to Relax
Not all breathing exercises are the same, but I especially love the ones that help the body relax and quiet a busy mind. The cool thing is that aside from helping you unwind and distress, breathing exercises also strengthen the lungs. You might find that after you've been doing the techniques for some time, your "normal" breathing is more effective, too.
Remember, that just like any type of exercise, practice makes perfect with breathing techniques. You might not nail them on the first try, but as you keep incorporating them into your wellness routine, you'll eventually find that you can do them without much effort.
1. Pursed lip breathing
This one is super simple and easy to do, but extremely effective. The general idea is to breathe out for double the amount of breaths you inhale. Pursed lip breathing helps release air that's trapped in the lungs, and decreases the amount of breaths you take, while extending exhalation.
With relaxed shoulders, take a normal breath for about 2 counts. Then pucker your lips up (think of your mouth when you're about to whistle - that's what your lips should look like!) and exhale for 4 counts. Do this for a few rounds.
2. Diaphragmatic breathing
Also known as belly or abdominal breathing, this is the granddaddy of breathing exercises, as you're training the body to let your diaphragm do all the work. Your goal here is to breathe through your nose and focus on how your belly fills up with air.
You can do this one either sitting up or lying down; I find it's nice to do while in bed to help wind down. With your shoulders back, keep one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe in deeply for about 2 seconds, your belly should stick out a bit. Feel the air expanding your stomach and then breathe out slowly through the lips.
3. Yoga breathing
To practice this one, start on the right side. Place your right thumb over your right nostril as you breathe in through the left nostril. Then take your right ring finger and place it over your left nostril as you exhale from the right one.
Leaving your ring finger where it is over the left nostril, inhale from the left, then switch to the right side, putting your thumb over the right nostril and exhaling through the left. It sounds a little funky, but you'll get the hang of it. You can easily see why people do it to help focus on the present - it's hard to think of anything else when you're wondering which nostril is next!
This deceptively simple breathing technique is lauded as one of the best ones to help you fall asleep. In theory, it's easy. You exhale through your mouth and then close it and inhale through your nose for 4 counts. You hold the breath in for 7 counts, then release it in 8 counts, and repeat at least three times.
Because you have 8 counts to get the breath out in, you're forced to slow down your breathing which, in turn, slows down the heart rate and helps you relax.
5. Breath counting
This is another relaxation technique that will keep your mind from wandering too far. Sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths, then settle into a pattern of "normal" breathing. When you exhale, count "one." The next time, count "two." Do this until you have exhaled (and counted to) five, then start the pattern over. Don't count past five, and if you find you've lost count, start again at one. You'll be surprised at how much concentration it will take to keep yourself on count.