Whether you’re nervous about a project, anxious about a presentation or just generally finding yourself in flight or fight mode constantly, breathing exercises are a quick and calming way to bring you back to your centre.
There are several different exercises you can try, varying from deep breathing to alternate nostril breathing or breath retention. But it could also simply mean that you focus on your breath and hence become aware of your present moment.
Whether you practice breathing exercises in the yoga studio, on your way to work or at home before you fall asleep, they all serve the same purpose. Not only do they help to create an inner balance, you can improve your ability to focus, calm your mind and relax and rejuvenate your nervous system.
Dani Binnington, yoga teacher, wellness guru and founder of Healthy Whole Me, reveals the three you should try.
- Walk, breathe, be present. Make sure your tech is not going to beep – switch it to silent. Set off, breathe in slowly and count to six, then exhale fully, also counting to six. Repeat. The counting keeps your mind engaged and your thoughts with what you are actually doing: walking and breathing. We are therefore much less likely to think about the future or dwell on something that has happened in the past. Being aware of our breath not only helps us manage the difficulties in everyday life, it is also a powerful way to reduce stress and increase energy.
- Sit, breathe, break state. If you’re in need of a mini-boost of energy during the day, or to break state before panic creeps up on you, find a quiet space somewhere and sit comfortably with your back up straight. A park bench or toilet seat will do too! Allow your hands, arms and shoulders to be relaxed. Inhale deeply and count to 4. Retain your breath for 6 counts and as you exhale count to 8. Allow your spine to lengthen upon your inhales and notice how you can let go of the day so far upon the exhales. Inhale length and space, exhale let go. Practice this a few times and you will feel calmer and more grounded with a greater sense of focus.
- Breathe yourself to sweet dreams. It can be tricky for many of us to shut our minds down before we fall asleep. Deep breathing exercises can calm the central nervous system and also act as a meditation to quiet the mind. Lie on your back with your arms and legs uncrossed and relaxed. Take one full inhale through your nose and slowly release your breath through your mouth. As you release your breath, imagine that your body becomes a little more heavy and relaxed. Repeat. With every breath, let go of the day and feel the heaviness in your body.