We breathe in and out about 25,000 times a day without thinking about it. Are you aware of how you breathe? Have you noticed if you hold your breath, if it is shallow, rapid, fast, or slow?
Have you tried any breathwork exercises? There are so many to choose from. They are a quick, easy way to help ground you, bring you back to the present moment, and pull you out of those times that you may be stuck in your head thinking about the past or focused on the future. It can help when you are feeling stressed, anxious, uneasy, out of sorts, scared, panicky, unfocused, etc.
The research also shows that breathwork can reduce blood pressure, help with pain management, improve our focus, and reduce inflammation.
Here are four different breathing exercises you can try. If any of these exercises are new to you, try to find a time you can be alone, with no distractions. As you get more comfortable with the exercises, you can incorporate them throughout your day when you find yourself feeling heightened, uneasy, unfocused, or stressed.
Longer exhale breathing – In this exercise you want your exhale breath to be longer than your inhale breath. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down.
-Start with an inhale breath for a count of 2.
–Exhale for a count of 4.
-Try doing this for 2 – 5 minutes.
As you get more comfortable you can increase the amount of time and the number counts of your inhale and exhale breaths.
Box breathing – The aim of this practice is to return breathing to a normal rhythm.
Begin by slowly exhaling all of the air out of your lungs.
-Gently inhale to a slow count of 4, filling up your lungs with air.
-Hold your breath with the air in your lungs for a count of 4.
-Gently exhale all the air out of your lungs for a count of 4.
-Hold your breath with the air our of your lungs for a count of 4.
-Repeat up to four times in one sitting.
If it is helpful, you can imagine your breath and the holds in between the breath moving around the image of the square.
4-7-8 breathing – This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It is a great one to use to help you fall asleep.
-Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
-Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
-Hold your breath for a count of 7.
-Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
-Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four.
Breathe in – Breathe out. My personal favorite is to tune into your breath and slowly repeat to yourself “breathe in” as you inhale and “breathe out” as you exhale. Taking a moment to stop and tune into how you are breathing can immediately calm and slow you down. There have been plenty of times when I’ve caught myself unconsciously holding my breath. We typically hold our breath when we are either anxious or in deep concentration, so simply taking a moment to consciously breathe helps immediately decrease anxiety and increases focus. You can also repeat words such as peace, calm, love as you inhale and stress, negativity, doubt as you exhale.
If you are new to breathwork, you will want to start slowly with these exercises. If you find that any of these exercises cause you to feel anxious or uneasy, stop – be gentle with yourself and try again at a different time.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hanh