How often do you feel stressed, tense or overwhelmed? For many of us, stress is an all too common occurrence in our lives.
Fortunately, there is a tool that you always have with you to help manage stress at any time. It is your breath.
Today I’m going to share three breathing techniques that have really helped me. I use them regularly and feel immediate relaxation. You can do these anywhere and at any time to help reduce stress and increase calm in your mind and body.
The three techniques are I’ll be explaining are:
- Letting Go Breath
- Playing with Breath ratio
- Anulom Vilom
Before beginning any breathing exercise, take a moment to center yourself. Either in a chair on sitting cross-legged on the floor, sit up tall, elongate your spine and lift the top of your head towards the sky. Close your eyes and notice how you feel, checking in with your mental and physical body.
Letting Go Breath
I call the first breathing technique, The Letting Go Breath. This technique is simple. It is a deep inhale through the nose, followed by an open-mouthed exhale with a ‘Ha’ sound that fades into a sigh on the exhale. During the exhale remember to release your jaw and relax the muscles of your face.
After any breathing exercise, check in with your body again. Close your eyes and go within. Just observe. Notice if there is an increased sense of relaxation or ease now.
It’s important to know that playing with the ratio of inhalations and exhalations, as well as the retention (holding) of the breath creates different responses in the nervous system of the body. Inhalations and holding the breath (breath retention) after an inhale are activating and stimulating. Exhalations and holding the breath (breath retention) after an exhalation are calming, grounding and relaxing.
Since we are looking to induce more relaxation, use a breath ratio with a longer exhale and retain the breath after the exhale. A ratio I like to use is to inhale for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 5, then hold the exhale for 3.
For example, Inhale…1 – 2 – 3, Exhale…1- 2 – 3 – 4 – 5, Hold…1 – 2 – 3. Continue this cycle of breathing for three to five rounds.
Once again, close your eyes and go within, noticing any changes in your body. Perhaps a deepening sense of calm and well-being.
Anulom Vilom is also known as, alternate nostril breathing. This technique is cooling and soothing, balancing both sides of the brain. You will inhale and exhale through one nostril at a time, with a short breath retention in-between each side. Breathing through the left nostril is calming and soothing while breathing through the right is activating. Since the goal here is increased relaxation, we’ll begin and end breathing through the left nostril.
Use your right thumb to close your right nostril, then inhale through the left nostril. Close both sides of your nose using your thumb and ring finger – hold – release your thumb and exhale through the right nostril – inhale through the right – close – hold – release your ring finger – exhale left. Your breath should be relaxed, smooth and quiet. It looks like this.
Begin by practicing Anulom Vilom for 2-5 minutes, working up to 15 minutes. When finished, place your hand down and go within.
Notice the difference in your body and mind after doing this practice.
The benefits of using any of these breathing techniques for decreased stress and increased relaxation are immediate and highly effective. They can be done anywhere and only require a few short minutes.
I invite all of you to try one, or all, of these techniques the next time you’re feeling stress. Watch and enjoy the positive changes that occur in your body and mind.