If you’re reading these words, you’re breathing—and probably not thinking too much of it. We do this naturally, of course, to make sure our bodies get the oxygen they need to survive. You can, however, learn to breathe in certain ways to re-energize and restore your body and mind.
These controlled, purposeful breathing exercises are powerful tools you can call upon when you feel the need. Of course, like most things worth doing, practice is paramount. You may consider following these instructions on a daily basis until the techniques become familiar enough for you to execute them on your own.
Breathing to Relieve Tension
When you feel pressured or worried, your muscles tend to tense up and tighten, making it difficult to relax. Concentrating on how air flows through your body when you breathe can help.
- Begin in a comfortable, seated position and take a moment to just observe your body, noticing any tension you may feel.
- Bring your hands to your belly. Deeply inhale, inflating your belly like a balloon, and then slowly exhale.
- On the next inhale, gradually fill your belly again, and then move that breath into your ribs. Exhale, first releasing your ribs, then your belly.
- Inhale again, purposefully moving your breath into your belly, then your ribs, and finally into your chest. Exhale in reverse order.
- Repeat several times.
Breathing to Release Anger
Emotionally upsetting situations stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, which activates your body’s fight-or-flight response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Defuse your stress, and its effects, by redirecting your focus to your breath.
- If you feel wound up, immediately force an exhale.
- Once you’re out of air, inhale deeply.
- Next, take several slow, deep breaths in a row. For each, slowly count to four as you breathe in, then count to eight as you breathe out. Pursing your lips as you breathe out helps increase the length of your exhale with relaxed control.
Breathing to Energize and Cleanse
This three-part, invigorating yoga technique is called the Breath of Joy. It coordinates rhythmic movement with breath to flow fresh, oxygenated blood through your whole body.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, allowing your knees to bend slightly to protect a sensitive lower back.
- Inhale one-third of your lung capacity through your nose and gently swing your arms in front of you, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level with palms facing the ceiling.
- Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms to the sides in a T-formation.
- Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms overhead, palms facing each other.
- On the exhalation, swing your arms forward and toward the ground, letting your torso fold forward as you let out an audible “ha.”
- Find a rhythm that is comfortable for you and repeat five to ten times.
Note: If you have untreated high blood pressure or suffer from any kind of head or eye concern, such as migraines or glaucoma, it’s best to skip this practice.