Do you ever wish you could just take a moment out of your day to de-stress? Have you been looking for a “quick fix” method to beat high-anxiety situations? Let’s face it: everyone deals with stress on a daily basis. Whether you’re at work, in a social situation, or running through your to-do list, there is always a need for a break. Ideally, you’d like to take an hour or two out of your day for a yoga or meditation class with a professional, but that’s not always realistic with your hectic schedule.
That’s why we’re giving you 5 breathing practices that you can do almost anywhere to make you calm, centered and refreshed so you can get back to your day!
1. Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”
Yoga is all about creating balance within the body, and a great place to start to find this balance is with the breath. This simple practice will bring focus to your breath, and is super easy to do anywhere or anytime.
1. Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four, all through the nose.
2. Continue balanced breathing as long as you’d like to calm your nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.
2. Body Scan Relaxation
Taking a moment to introspect and assess your inner state can be a very effective stress reliever. Body scan relaxation can take as much or as little time as you want it to, and can be used in any situation. It’s especially effective for relaxing your body before falling asleep at night or when transitioning from work to home each day.
This is a very simple process can be done lying down or in a seated position. Closing your eyes for this practice will help keep your focus inward.
1. Keep your legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, and breathe deeply.
2. Start by focusing on the toes and feet. Breathing through your nose, visualize your breath going to that specific body part.
3. Hold your inhale for a count of 5 while you tense the muscles in this area, then breathe out through the mouth as you release and relax them. (If holding your breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to just a few seconds.)
4. Slowly move throughout your entire body- knees, thighs, glutes, core, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw and eyes- tensing and relaxing each muscle group and breathing deeply.
5. When you’ve considered everything from your toes to the crown of your head, visualize your body as a whole, tense everything one more time, then relax completely.
6. Finish with a few normal breaths, and gently bring your attention back to your surroundings.
3. Mindfulness Meditation
This can be a particularly useful exercise if you’re in a high-energy situation and just need a minute to clear your head. There are many ways to do mindfulness meditation, but at its core, it is a way to help you stop worrying about the future or the past. This modality switches the focus to what’s happening right now, enabling you to be fully engaged in the present moment.
1. Sit comfortably but with good posture, on a chair or cross-legged on the floor.
2. Focus on the path your breath is taking, from the tip of your nostril, washing over your forehead, down your throat, then deep into your lungs and belly.
3. Follow your breath with your mind’s eye all the way back out, through the nose.
4. Repeat several times. If your mind starts to wander, gently guide it back to the path the air is taking through your body.
4. Yogic Breathing
Many of us never take a moment to notice our breath. It can be a great indicator of how we’re feeling, both physically and emotionally. On the other side of the same coin, we can use breath awareness and mindfulness in breathing as an effective way to cultivate calm in the mind and body.
Yogic breathing, also known as belly breathing, can take some practice, but is very effective in combating stress. It moves extra air deeper into your body so that more oxygen can be absorbed into your bloodstream and brain.
1. It can be helpful to practice this technique the first few times lying down so there is less pressure on your diaphragm, but can definitely be done in a comfortable seated or standing position.
2. Begin to breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, closing your eyes if you’re comfortable doing so. In this exercise, your stomach should expand, but your chest should rise very little. It can be helpful to place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest so you can feel how the air is moving through your body.
3. Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your tongue and jaw relaxed. Push the air out with your stomach muscles so that your belly button moves closer to your spine with the exhale.
4. Take 10 deep breaths just like this, then take a break. You can do as many sets as you have time for.
5. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”
This breath is said to bring calm and balance and to unite the right and left sides of the brain. This is an excellent breathing technique to use whenever it’s time to focus or energize. However, it’s not ideal for bedtime; nadi shodhana is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake.
1. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply and steadily through the left nostril.
2. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the right ring finger, then exhale steadily through the right nostril.
3. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril.
These breathing techniques all have the potential to positively impact both your stress levels and your health. Whether you use them as quick fixes or work them into your daily yoga and meditation practice, they are sure to bring you calm, focus and balance. Remember: your breath is your prana, or life force, so don’t forget to use it to bring good vibes into your body!