We often forget about our breath when we get really stressed or anxious, which doesn’t help our nervous system or calm our flight or fight response. But focusing on breathing can help us calm ourselves when our stress levels get out of control. Here are some exercises to help you relax.
Equal, Deep Breath
This can be done anywhere and for any length of time. Focus on the breath and inhale for four counts, then exhale for four counts. The equal in-and-out breath becomes an internal rhythm that calms the body and mind.
Three Part Breath
To start, place your hands just below your belly button and inhale into that spot, isolating the breath. Exhale. Move the hands up to the rib cage and breathe in using the diaphragm, spreading the rib cage wide. Exhale. Move your hands up to your breast bone and inhale to feel the chest rise. Exhale. Take one big breath using all three parts of the torso. Repeat from the beginning.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
To start, close the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the top of the inhale, pause and close the left nostril with the right ring finger, release the thumb and exhale out the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, pause and close the right nostril with the thumb, release the ring finger and exhale out the left nostril. Continue.
This exercise counts the exhales. On the first exhale, count “one.” On the second exhale, count “two.” Count up to five and start again from the beginning. If you find yourself past five, you know your mind has wandered and you’re no longer present.
In this exercise, the exhales are shorter than the inhales. Start by taking a two-count inhale, and a four-count exhale. If this is’t’ long enough, you can increase the inhale to a four-count, and the exhale to a six-count, and so on. The longer exhale is what calms the body and mind.
Feature Image: Daniel Wehner