Simple breathing techniques for stress relief

How often do you focus on your breath? Given that we breathe up to on average 20,000 breaths a day, its crazy to think that we go through our day largely unaware of this automatic bodily function and its ability to bring us into a relaxed state.  And we can access it at anytime and anywhere.

Focusing on our breath is a powerful way to reduce stress and reduce anxiety and bring us back to the present. It can create more clarity and improve decision making.

The following breathing patterns can be used anytime to bring an immediate sense of calm and relive stress. They can be used as a meditation practice, or before meditating to reduce mental chatter.

If you are new to breathing exercises, start with a short length of time like 2-3 minutes, then build it up slowly.  Meditating or breathwork for 5-10 minutes a day is better than 45 minutes three times per week.

Belly Breathing

During stressful times, we tend to shallow breathe into our upper chest and not our abdomen. This can create tension in our belly, negatively impacting not only our digestion, but the way our other organs function too.

Breathing in to the belly creates safety in the body. It releases tension from the pelvic area and allows our organs to perform optimally. It aids digestion and elimination of what we no longer require, allowing us to let go – physically and emotionally).

This can be practised in bed in the morning or evening, with your knees bent, or sitting in a chair at any time during the day.

  • Place your hands on your belly, close to your navel. Close or soften your eyes
  • Allow you belly to expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale.
  • It may help to visualise a string pulling the belly button away from your body on the inhale and the belly button moving towards the spine on the exhale.
  • Once you have awareness around the inhale and the exhale, focus on the inhale and exhale breath pattern becoming equal e.g. 5 counts inhale and 5 counts exhale.

Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana

This technique is grounding and balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It can be practised sitting cross legged or seated.

  • Close or soften your eyes.
  • Fold the tip of the right index and middle finger towards the palm. You will use the thumb and the pinky and ring fingers of the right hand. Firstly, using the thumb to close off the right nostril, exhale fully through the left nostril and then inhale through the left nostril.
  • Then use the pinky and ring fingers to close off the left nostril, exhale deeply through the right nostril. Then inhale deeply through the right nostril.
  • Now block of the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril fully and deeply, inhale through the left nostril.
  • Again, exhale through the right nostril and continue alternate nostril breathing.
  • The breath should be complete and full on both the inhalation and exhalation cycles. Continue for an even breath count on both sides

Once you achieve this simple technique then there are other breathing exercises to explore. Kundalini yoga uses a range of breath exercises to achieve different states of wellbeing and relaxation.

Bringing our bodies back in to homeostasis and committing to our own wellness, is key to a lasting vibrant health and happiness.

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