We all know that life has stressful moments and learning how to relieve it with an easy breathing exercise can be very helpful. We all remember when we were very stressed, hearing a friend say “Breathe” and knowing that is what we need to do.
Not breathing deeply adversely affected my health and incapacitated me. As a young person, I did not realize it was my breathing that caused my frequent stomach aches. Read my story: Learning How to Breathe Changed My Life
Breathing deeply also has many health benefits. Learn the 13 Health Benefits of Breathing Well.
75% of Americans have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month according to the Stress in America survey. The survey found that because of stress:
- 42% laid awake at night in the past month.
- 33% overate and/or eating unhealthy foods.
- 51% of women report higher stress levels than men.
We try to relieve stress in many ways, watch television, overeat, drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke, go for a walk, exercise, have a long hot bath, listen to music or even get a massage. None of these do the trick. The best stress reliever is breathing deeply. Deep breathing does more than helping us relax; it’s been scientifically proven to improve wellness.
The American Institute of Stress says that breathing into your abdomen for 20 to 30 minutes each day helps reduce stress. Breathing deeply increases the oxygen flow to your brain, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system creating a state of relaxation. Breathing exercises connect you with your body, taking you away from all that worrying going on in your head, thus quieting your mind.
1. Deep Belly Breathing Exercise
When I was 24, I was hospitalized due to a highly stressful situation. I learned a deep breathing technique in a yoga class.
Most people do not know how to breathe into their belly. This is a simple technique. After all, babies do this naturally; it is not rocket science.
How to do it:
- Lie down on your back on a bed.
- Place your hands on your belly.
- Breathe naturally and notice if your belly is rising and falling.
- Now breathe into your belly; keep your hands gently on your belly.
- Keep breathing till you feel your belly going up and down gently.
- Do this breathing for 3 – 10 minutes depending on how much time you have.
- Repeat this every day, do this when you first wake and when you go to bed at night.
- You can do this later while you are sitting. Close your eyes while you are sitting so you are less likely to get distracted.
- Also, whenever you are upset or have a stomach ache find a place to do this. Laying down at the beginning is best but you can breathe this way while sitting.
- As time goes on, do this gentle breathing into your belly whenever you remember. Breathe while you are on the computer, walking, watching a movie or talking with a friend or whenever. You do not have to put your hands on your belly, that is just to help you become aware of your belly and breathing.
Eventually, as you continue to practice belly breathing you will notice that you are doing it as a regular thing. It could take months or a year or two which is ok.
2. Patricia Farrell Relaxation Breathing Exercise
“Anxiety and stress can build up almost without your knowing it. The way to help yourself combat it is to use this simple, easy-to-use technique.”
3. “The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise by Dr. Weil
This breathing exercise is simple and takes almost no time. Although you can do the exercise in any position, try sitting 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 through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- 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 eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.”
4. Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing Exercise)
This is a great way to balance the body by calming the nervous system, reducing stress, and increasing focus. You can do it anytime.
How to do Equal Breathing:
- Inhale through the nose for a count of four.
- Then exhale for a count of four through the nose (this adds a natural resistance to the breath).
- Do this 2 – 3 times.
- Once you find that you can do this easily, you can increase the number to 6 – 8 times.
“It’s pretty abdominal-intensive but it will warm up the body, shake off stale energy, and wake up the brain.” says Rebecca Pacheco, yoga teacher.
All of us can benefit from doing a breathing exercise. Do one of them and enjoy the benefits.