Breathing exercises have been used for centuries as a way to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. These are simple yet powerful exercises that can be practised by anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can be beneficial for both mental and physical health. Here are a few breathing exercises to choose from.
Pursed lip breathing
This is one of the simplest breathing exercises. It focuses on controlling your breathing so that your deep breaths are slower and more intentional. Here’s how to do it:
- Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position with your neck and shoulders relaxed
- Step 2: Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nostrils for two seconds
- Step 3: Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, puckering your lips as if giving a kiss
- Step 4: Keep your breath slow and steady while breathing out
Practice pursed-lip breathing four to five times a day.
Paced breathing (4-7-8 and square)
Paced breathing is a technique where you focus on how often and how fast you breathe. These breathing exercises can help people with conditions like anxiety or stress which can make you breathe faster. Controlling your breathing can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are different counts for paced breathing, we’ll talk about square and 4-7-8.
Square or box
- Step 1: Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to 4 as you inhale
- Step 2: Hold your breath for a count of 4
- Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 4
- Step 4: Hold your breath for a count of 4 before exhaling
- Step 5: Repeat the cycle
Increase the number of repetitions over time.
- Step 1: Allow your lips to part gently
- Step 2: Exhale completely, making a breathy whoosh sound as you do
- Step 3: Press your lips together as you silently inhale through the nose for 4 seconds (a count of 4)
- Step 4: Hold your breath for 7 seconds (a count of 7)
- Step 5: Exhale again for a full 8 seconds (a count of 8), making a whooshing sound throughout
- Step 6: Repeat 4 times when you first start.
Eventually, work up to 8 repetitions. This technique replenishes oxygen in the body which relaxes the person.
Alternate nostril breathing
One study found that people who tried nasal breathing, also known as alternate nostril breathing felt less stressed afterwards.
- Step 1: Find a comfortable seated position with your spine straight and your eyes closed
- Step 2: Exhale fully and then close the right nostril with your right thumb
- Step 3: Inhale through your left nostril
- Step 4: Open your right nostril and exhale through it while closing the left
- Step 5: Continue this rotation for 5 minutes, finishing by exhaling through your left nostril
From the 4-7-8 technique to the ancient practice of alternate nostril breathing, there are many different breathing exercises to try if you’re dealing with stress or anxiety or simply want to feel more centred and relaxed.
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