Feeling overworked, under-slept, or under tons of pressure? There are so many ways to find calm without investing in an expensive massage. All you need is ten minutes or less to practice breathing techniques that can induce a sense of calm. Here are a few expert-approved ways to relax using breathing techniques from yoga and meditation.
Before we get into the breathing techniques, it’s important to not wait until you’re panicking to practice mindful breathing. Controlled breathing keeps the mind and body functioning their best, but also can lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and help us destress.
Balance is a good thing to have, even with breath. To start, inhale for a count of four through the nose, then exhale for a count of four through the nose as well. When you have the four count down, you can move on to six and eight counts. This is especially effective before bed, by helping ease your mind from racing thoughts or whatever is distracting you.
Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your stomach. Take a deep breath through the nose ensuring the diaphragm (not your chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in your lungs. Aim for six to ten deep slow breaths per minute for ten minutes each day to experience reductions to heart rate and blood pressure. This works great before an exam or a stressful event.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breath is said to bring calm and balance, as well as unite the left and right sides of the brain. Start in a comfortable meditative pose, and hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern a few more times. This works best when it’s time to focus or energize. Don’t do this before bed though because it’s known to make people feel more awake.
Skull Shining Breath
This one brightens your day from the inside out. Begin with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from your lower stomach. Once comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale and exhale, through the nose, every one to two seconds for a total of ten breaths. This works best when it’s time to wake up, warm-up, or start looking on the bright side of things.
To relieve tension from head to toe, close your eyes, and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each. Start with your feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, and eyes- all while maintaining deep, slow breaths. This works best at home, a desk, or even the road. One thing to keep in mind is dizziness is never the goal. If holding your breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to a few seconds at most.