We live in a very busy society. We need to take time for ourselves. We need to slow down and breathe. Breath can have an impact on our sense of peace and for settling our nervous system. Breathing exercises are useful to all of us but are particularly helpful for those struggling with anxiety and depression.
1. basic breathing exercise (daily)
Find a quiet place. Place a hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Breathe for 5 minutes feeling the breath move in your chest as well as your stomach. When we are stressed we often either hold our breaths or breathe shallowly in only our chests. Breathe deeply so that your hand on your stomach moves as much as the hand on your chest. You can choose to count. Whatever number you choose for inhalations, make the exhalations last for a longer count.
2. 4-7-8 technique (daily option)
Another effective breathing technique is called 4-7-8 and has been developed by Andrew Weil, teacher and writer on holistic health. This technique is similar to the above technique except that you will inhale to the count of 4, hold the breath counting 1-7 and exhale to the count of 1-8. You can see a video demonstration and explanation by Dr. Weil by googling Andrew Weil 4-7-8.
3. bee breath (for calming)
To practice “bee” breath, sit comfortably, with the back tall and shoulders relaxed. Start by taking a few natural breaths, and close your eyes (as long as closing them doesn’t produce more anxiety). Then, keeping the lips lightly sealed, inhale through the nostrils. Exhaling, make the sound of the letter M, essentially a humming sound. Sustain the sound until you need to inhale. Then repeat: Inhale through the nose, then hum like a buzzing bee as you exhale. Continue by inhaling as needed and exhaling with this sound for several minutes. You can practice as long as it feels good.
4. sipping/sighing (for calming)
This exercise is just as it sounds. Inhale audibly through pursed lips as though pulling through a straw. Exhale also audibly with a loud sigh using the voice.
5. alternate nostril breathing (to decrease stress and help with sleep)
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Lift right hand up toward nose. Place forefinger and middle finger on forehead just above the nose.
- Exhale completely and then use the right thumb to close right nostril.
- Inhale through left nostril and then close left nostril with your fingers.
- Open right nostril and exhale through this side.
- Inhale through right nostril and then close this nostril.
- Open left nostril and exhale through left side.
- This is one cycle.
- Continue for up to 5 cycles.
- Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhalation on the left side.