How many times has someone told you to “Take a deep breath”? Probably more often than you can count. But have you ever wondered why we say that? Does taking a deep breath really help you in a stressful situation? As it turns out, the answer is yes! Here’s everything you need to know about breathing exercises and why they work…
How It Works
Shallow, rapid breathing is often associated with stress and hyperventilation. When your breathing pattern changes due to stress, you need to get it back under control in order to relieve those feelings. But how does breathing battle stress exactly? A proper breathing exercise like the ones mentioned below can help you feel calm and energized while slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. It’s all about controlling your breathing. These very same breathing techniques are practiced in yoga, meditation, and tai chi. Deep breathing encourages a full exchange of oxygen, unlike the shallow breaths you take when you’re stressed.
It’s best to incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine instead of only doing them in the moments you feel stressed. The more you practice them, the better you’ll get and the better results you’ll see! Many of these exercises can be done discreetly no matter where you are. So, try adding a quick exercise to your morning or nighttime routine and give it a try when you’re feeling frazzled at work.
Exercises to Try
There are actually a variety of breathing exercises you can try depending on your level of expertise and what you’re comfortable with. There are simpler exercises, such as Sama Vritti, also known as Equal Breathing, or Progressive Relaxation. If you’re just starting out, these exercises are perfect for you.
Try starting with Sama Vritti, which is a technique where you simply breathe in and out through your nose for a count of four-seconds each. Once you’re comfortable at this level, you can increase your count.
Progressive Relaxation is a different technique in which you focus on each section of your body for two to three sections each while slowly breathing in and out. This allows you relax your body and relieve tension from head to toe.
If you’re more experienced with breathing exercises, you can try something a bit more challenging. Those of you who are dedicated yogis may feel more comfortable with something advanced such as Kapalabahti, Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) or even the Wim Hof Method.
In Kapalabahti, you take a long, deep breath in and then exhale quickly (all done through the nose). Nadi Shodhana is done just as it sounds! You alternate holding one nostril closed while breathing in and out. Give it a try by holding your left nostril closed, then breathe in through your right nostril. Close the right nostril, open the left, and breathe out through the left. All you have to do is continue that pattern! Just remember to start with the beginner routines and work your way up to exercises like these to avoid any issues including lightheadedness. You don’t want to try advanced exercises before you’re ready.
Now that you’ve learned about the benefits of deep breathing and a little about a few of the exercises you can practice, will you give it a go? Try taking a few minutes each morning to do one of these exercises to clear your mind and prepare for the day. See if it makes a difference.
Remember when you’re in a stressful situation, use one of these techniques to easily regulate your breathing once again. A simple five minutes of deep breathing can make a world of a difference!