15 Simple Breathing Exercises To Melt Stress And Anxiety

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Exercises for Deep Breathing
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So many of us feel overwhelmed from time to time. Life is fast, hectic, constantly connected, and full of demands. Sometimes it feels almost impossible to find time to get grounded, but reconnecting with yourself is vital for health and wellbeing.

Fortunately TGH has a solution that requires no expensive equipment or fancy therapy. We have listed our favorite breathing techniques that will have you feeling calm and collected in no time. These are the best for melting stress and anxiety – allowing you to get on and enjoy your life.

1. Don’t Forget To Breathe Out

This first one is not so much a breathing technique as a reminder for any times that you are feeling panicky – like you can’t catch your breath.

This is very common, and it’s scary if it happens to you. So if you ever feel like you can’t get a deep breath, the more you try the harder it gets and the  more you panic – remember this…..

  1. If you can say ‘I can’t catch my breath’, then you are getting air, so this is not a dangerous situation, as uncomfortable as it may feel.
  2. You need to EXHALE!

If you have filled your lungs with shallow, short, panic breaths, you won’t be able to take a deep lungful of air until you completely breathe out. And in a stressed out state it can be easy to forget this part.

Breathing
Breathing

So the first suggestion is to build up your breath awareness. While you are seated, with shoulders back and down exhale fully. This removes the carbon dioxide and increases the lung capacity for exhaling. So now, go ahead and breathe deeply and fully.

Simply being aware of this can be useful any time you feel yourself struggling to calm your breathing.

2. 4-7-8 Technique

This second technique was devised by Andrew Weil, a Harvard doctor, specializing in holistic health, and as we can see from the quote below, he believes that breathing is a powerful way to influence our moods.

“Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.”

His 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise is said to be one of the most relaxing and there are claims that it can put someone to sleep in just 60 seconds.

As the video shows, this is a very simple breathing technique, that can be done anywhere, anytime you need it. This is a powerful tool to have, to be able to invoke a relaxed state regardless of your surroundings.

Here is how to do it:

  • Sit up with your back straight and place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, behind the teeth.
  • Breathe out fully through your mouth, allowing it to make a ‘whoosh’ sound.
  • Next inhale through your nose with your mouth closed to the count of 4.
  • Calmly hold your breath to a steady count of 7.
  • Then breathe out fully through your mouth to a steady count of 8 – again allow the air to make a sound as you exhale.
  • Repeat the cycle for at least 4 rounds to enjoy the full calming benefits.

3. Pride pose

This is another very simple technique, which always leaves me with a  huge grin on my face.

Sit upright, or stand star with your arms raised about your head in a Y shape, just like the lady in our main featured image. From here take 3 good breaths, inhaling and exhaling fully through your nose. Research suggests cortisol (the stress hormone) may be reduced after 2 minutes of breathing in this way.

4. Legs Raised

This breathing technique is great to support your circulatory and lymphatic systems, and it wont feel like hard work at all.

Simply lie on your back (on a mat or towel), with your butt up against chair or some. Rest your calves on the seat of the chair and take at least 3 good breaths from here. This is great if you ever get that feeling of ‘heavy legs’ at the end of the day, as it promotes blood flow and lymphatic drainage. It gives your legs a break from gravity!

5. Belly Breathing

Relaxation Through Breathing
Relaxation Through Breathing

Also known as abdominal breathing…..this is a classic breathing technique and one of my personal favorites. It is well regarded as one of the best for calming the nervous system and reducing stress. Completing the following procedure for 10 minutes each day could help you to reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Start by lying down on a mat or towel, and place your hands on your chest and abdomen.
  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth throughout.
  • Keep your breathing calm and steady, taking as many seconds as you comfortably need for each breath.
  • Be aware of the hand resting on the abdomen, seeing how it rises and falls with each cycle.

6. Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is also known as balanced breathing – and this is recommended for practice before sleeping as it is great for quieting the mind.

  • Perform this technique while sitting comfortably upright.
  • Begin by inhaling and exhaling through the nose to a comfortable count of 4.
  • Gradually begin to lengthen the count of each cycle, so that you are breathing in for 8 and breathing out for 8.
  • This balanced breathing and counting will soothe the nervous system and decrease stress – promoting a peaceful night’s sleep.

7. Morning breathing

The next technique is recommended for when you wake up. It is ideal as it can help to reduce stiffness and also clear the sinuses, shaking off any morning grogginess.

  • Start in a standing position, and bend forward from the waist as you exhale.
  • You can allow your knees to bend slightly, allow your arms to dangle forward towards the floor.
  • As you inhale deeply and steadily return to an upright position. Roll your body up slowly, lifting your head up last.
  • From here hold your breath for a few moments, before exhaling and folding your body over again.
  • Repeat at least 4 times to gain the full benefits.

8. Progressive Breathing

Progressive breathing is fantastic for relaxing the entire body as well as mind.

  • Begin in a seated position, preferably on the floor, with your legs out in front of you. Your spine should be comfortably upright and your eyes should be closed.
  • Become aware of your breath, by inhaling deeply and evenly though the nose.
  • Now start by tensing your toes and feet as you inhale for a count of 5, releasing the muscles as you exhale to an equal count of 5.
  • Work your way through your body like this, tensing and releasing all the way up to your face.
  • You will finish up feeling relaxed and revitalised from head to toe.

9. Breath Counting

This is a simple concentration technique which you can do to relax your mind and focus your mind. It can be a fantastic way to prepare for a day or for a task ahead of you.

  • Sit comfortably on the floor, you can be in a meditation cross legged pose if you like, close your eyes.
  • Decide on how many breaths you would like to count to, it can be 10 or 100 – the choice is entirely yours.
  • Then begin by breathing in and out naturally to find a comfortable, steady rhythm. This should be silent and through the nose.
  • When you are ready, you can begin to count. Each cycle of in and out breath is equal to one count.
  • As you exhale count ‘one’ silently. Then inhale.
  • Next time you exhale count ‘two’ silently. Then inhale.
  • Repeat for as long as you decide up to your chosen number.
  • To extend the practice you can work backwards once you reach your goal number, counting back down to one.
  • If you lose your focus (and count) at anytime, you can challenge yourself by having to start again from one.

10. Stimulating Breath

Stimulated Breath is a technique that not only calms the nervous system, but also heightens awareness and boosts energy. Take a look at the video below which gives a great demonstration – it is clear to see why it is also known as the ‘bellows breath’.

  • Begin sitting comfortably upright, in a cross legged position on the floor or in a chair.
  • With your mouth closed, breath in through the nose in a short sharp inhale, and exhale the same way.
  • The breaths are forceful, but not labored, the video can show exactly what we mean by this.
  • Aim to complete 3 inhales and exhales for each second.
  • Resume normal breathing intermittently and gradually build up the duration of your bellows breathing.

11. Guided Visualization

Guided visualization can be very relaxing, and is as simple as putting in headphones wherever you are (although not while driving).

You can enlist the help of a therapist, or simply use a recording for this. It involves spoken descriptions and instructions which enable you to invoke pleasant images. Breathing should be slow and steady throughout, and may even be dictated by the guide.

12. Clearing Your Head

This breathing technique is a great de-stressor for when you are feeling overwhelmed, with too much on your plate.

  • Start by rolling your neck slowly forward so that your chin is on your chest.
  • Roll your head steadily up towards your right ear, slowly inhaling as you go, raising your chin towards the sky from here (unless you have any spinal issues).
  • Hold the breath here for a moment and then exhale as you slowly return to the starting position with your chin on your chest.
  • Hold the breath here for a money and then roll over to the other side while inhaling.

13. Alternate Nostril Breathing

Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep Breathing Exercises

Alternate nostril breathing is well known as a ‘channel cleanser’ and is said to increase alertness in both lobes of our brain – helping to bring balance. It is thought that we don’t breathe equally through our nostrils at all times, favoring one or the other when we breathe normally.

  • Begin seated comfortably in a cross legged position or in a chair.
  • Place the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril and press firmly. Breathe in slowly through your left nostril.
  • Pause for a moment.
  • Then, place the ring finger of your right hand on your left nostril and press firmly. Remove your right thumb from your right nostril and exhale steadily through your right nostril.
  • Now inhale through the right nostril that is still open.
  • Pause here.
  • Close the right nostril with the thumb – release the left nostril and exhale slowly.
  • That is one full round. Start gradually with 2 rounds, and gradually build up from there at your own pace.

14. Shining Skull Breath

This is another dynamic breathing technique, similar to the bellows breath. I recommend that you watch the following instructional video to demonstrate how to do this properly.

The main difference from bellows breathing is that the inhalation is relaxed, and the exhalation is forceful.

15. Complete Breath

Breathing Deeply
Breathing Deeply

Let’s finish up with the complete breath technique, which focuses on using the whole lungs, filling our bodies with plenty of oxygen and relaxing the nervous system.

 

  • As you inhale from a comfortable starting position, be aware of dividing your torso into three areas that you breathe into – it works best to have your hands resting on your torso as you go.
  • Diaphragm/Adbomen
  • Mid-chest
  • Upper-chest
  • Breathe into each area, fully inflating fully, feeling the ribs spread.
  • Then reverse as you exhale, feeling your torso deflate as you go.

These 15 techniques are all great for relaxation, and also include some other great benefits. Which of these most appeals to you? You will naturally enjoy some more than others.

Do you have a breathing technique of your own? We would love to hear from you!

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