Kadir, a follower of the blog, commented the other day about how he enjoyed and learned from my “Breathing” post of June 3, 2015 and asked if I had anything else on the subject.
We can’t disappoint our readers can we? So here goes.
Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming, energizing, and even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.
Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a useful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. The following three breathing exercises are recommended to help relax and reduce stress.
Try them to see how they affect your stress and anxiety levels.
The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
This technique is adapted from Yoga and aims to raise vital energy and increase alertness.
- Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm. Suggesting a bellows. Breath normally after each cycle.
- Do not do more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Simulating breath, you can increase your time by 5 seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.
If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.
The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is very simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly, even though this may seem awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. This is also called a “cleansing breath.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breathes.
Remember, with this breathing technique, you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. You can purse your lips and force the air through your mouth-cleansing breath. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each cycle is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep the 4:7:8 ratio.
I do this exercise while walking, and inhale for 4 steps, hold my breath for 7 steps and exhale for 8 steps.
This exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains in power with repetition and practice.
Do it twice a day, but don’t do more than four cycles for the first month of practice.
Use this exercise whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension or stress. Use it to help you fall asleep.
This is a very simple breathing technique much used in Zen practice.
Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally, it will be quiet and slow. Depth and rhythm may vary.
- To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
- The next time you exhale, count “two”, and so on up to “five”.
- Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation.
Never count higher than “five”, and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to “eight”, “twelve”, even “nineteen”.
Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.
That’s it for this week.