Breathing exercises are one of the most effective strategies for stress release, as they communicate the brain that it is time to relax.
All reactions to stress and anxiety, such as increased heart rate, hyperventilation or high blood pressure, can be kept under control with the help of specific breathing techniques.
These types of exercises can be performed by anyone, under any circumstances, without the need for special equipment.
The Benefits Of Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are considered to be effective universal methods of stress release for many reasons, as they work prompt and can be practiced at the office, at home or in the park.
Also, they are free, requiring very little training to perform them properly and quickly annihilate the negative effects of chronic stress and neurasthenia.
Studies conducted in this regard have shown that simple control of breathing induces deep relaxation states and increases body temperature, thus installing a state of calmness.
Breathing therapy was successfully applied in the following medical problems:
- pronounced states of physical and mental tension;
- chronic fatigue;
- sleep disorders;
- concentrating disorders;
- anxiety and phobias;
- panic disorders;
- heart diseases.
Please keep in mind that breathing exercises are only one component of various disease treatments, not a substitute for them.
#1 Relaxed Breathing
Practice this exercise of deep breathing in a quiet space, without possible disturbing factors. Wear clothes that are comfortable and will not be inconvenient during your practice. It is important to feel as cozy as possible.
Sit on a chair, with head resting on the back, arms extended on the sides and palms up. Knees should be slightly apart (do not cross your legs).
A full relaxation always begins with ab absolute concentration on breathing. Breathe in and out slowly, in a regular rhythm.
- Try to fill your lungs with air naturally. Imagine how the airflow enters the respiratory organs, just like running water fills a bottle;
- Breathe through the nose and exhale through the mouth;
- Inhale slowly and rhythmically, counting from 1 to 5;
- Exhale just as slow, for 5 seconds.
- Continue this sequence until you feel how the state of calmness installs. Do not take breaks and do not hold your breath, let the air circulate continuously.
Practice this relaxing breathing exercise for 3-5 minutes, once a day or every time you want to let go of stress.
#2 Equal Breathing or Sama Vritti
Balance is beneficial for the proper functioning of body and mind, starting with the respiratory function. First, breathe in slowly to the count of four and then exhale just as slow, only through the nose.
The aim is to breathe successively, managing to extend the count up to 6 or 8. According to yogic masters, this exercise has calming effects on the nervous system and improves concentration. It is also recommended right before bedtime if you experience difficulties in falling asleep.
#3 Abdominal Breathing
Lie in bed and put a hand on your chest and the other on the lower abdomen. Inhale deeply through the nose so that the diaphragm, the main inspiring muscle, creates an expansion of the lungs (without raising your chest). The goal is to take 6-10 deep and slow breaths per minute, for 10 minutes daily.
Experts say that among the effects of this practice, we can notice an immediate deep relaxation, also a reduced heart rate and blood pressure. Practice abdominal breathing every day for 6-8 weeks for a noticeably increased ability to deal with stress. This exercise is also recommended before an exam, a job interview or any other stressful event.
Yogis use this exercise for mental balance, considering that it helps make connections between the two brain hemispheres. Sit comfortably in a meditative position, then place the thumb of the right hand over the nostril on the same side of the face.
Inhale deeply through the left nostril and when you reach the maximum point of air penetration, cover the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
Continue this sequence, inhaling through the right nostril, then covering it with the thumb and exhaling slowly through the left nostril. This exercise will help you focus more effectively and energize yourself during stressful and exhausting moments. Alternate nostril breathing is not recommended before bedtime.
Note – Hillary Clinton said that she practices alternate nostril breathing. In her book “What Happened,” Hillary wrote:
“I did yoga with my instructor … especially breath work. If you’ve never done alternate nostril breathing, it’s worth a try.”
#5 Kapalabhati or The Skull Shining Breath
This one starts with a deep inhalation, followed by rapid expulsion of air through lower abdomen contraction, both nasally. Once you manage to master the sequence, repeat the cycle 10 times, without taking breaks.
Kapalabhati exercise is recommended immediately after waking up in the morning or when you prepare for an intellectually or physically demanding activity.
#6 Progressive Relaxation
In order to remove amassed tension, close your eyes and concentrate on successive straining and relaxing of each muscle group, while you breathe in deeply and exhale as slowly as possible.
Start with your toes and feet, then continue with the knees, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, arms, neck, jaw and eyes. Inhale through the nose and count to five as you keep the muscles tensed, then exhale through the mouth when relaxing the muscles.
You can perform this exercise at home, at the office or during a trip. If you experience dizziness, accelerate the rhythm of breathing a little.
#7 Positive Visualization
Another effective breathing exercise is positive visualization. All you have to do is close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly, imagining a place where you would like to be. This way, the body relaxes and negative thoughts are replaced by images that will install an overall positive state.
Warnings & Contraindications
Practicing breathing exercises is safe for most people. However, people who have a medical condition such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, or any other heart or lung concern may experience:
- increases anxiety;
- panic attacks;
- heart palpitations;
- shortness of breath;
- increased blood pressure.
These adverse effects can also occur if you practice these exercises incorrectly. Furthermore, the practice of advanced breathing exercise without proper instructions and training can lead to severe adverse effects. According to Vera Stanley Alder, a self-help author:
“it’s extremely dangerous for the average person to attempt any of the more complicated systems sometimes given out, which might lead them into a mental home or worse.”