In these fast-paced, busy times, the average adult American reports feeling over-stressed, over-worked, and pressured from all sides. Without adequate sleep, relaxation time, and physical exercise, it can be very difficult to maintain a healthy outlook and to combat the effects of stress.
Stress can be one of the biggest negative influences on a person’s health, so finding ways to effectively combat stress should be a priority for most adults. Breathing exercises can be a powerful relaxation tool, and can easily be performed in almost any setting or context. The following five breathing exercises come from a variety of meditation and exercise disciplines.
1 – Breath Counting
This is a deceptively simple technique borrowed from Zen Buddhist meditation practice. Beginning in a comfortable, seated position with a straight spine, the person closes their eyes and continues to breathe normally and quietly. After a few moments, the person begins to count exhales as they happen naturally.
Every five exhales, the person starts the count over at one. This can be more difficult to maintain than it might seem. Practice for ten minutes for full relaxation.
2 – Equal Counting
This exercise is as simple as it sounds. The practitioner begins in a comfortable, seated position with their spine straight. They then begin a slow count to four with each inhale and exhale, striving to keep the depth and duration of each half breath equal. This exercise can be especially supportive of getting to sleep.
3 – Invigorating Breath
This exercise should not be done before sleep as it can have an awakening effect on practitioners. Beginning in a comfortable seated or prone position with the back straight, the practitioner inhales slowly through the nose and then exhales quickly and forcefully back through the nose, pushing with the diaphragm. This is repeated up to ten times and can help to clear the mind.
4 – Abdominal Counting
Again, the practitioner begins in a comfortable position with a straight spine, and one hand on their chest while the other is placed on their abdomen. Taking in breath slowly through the nose, the practitioner of this technique expands the abdomen only until the breath is full, and then exhales through the nose.
The goal is to take in between six and ten breaths per minute for ten minutes. This exercise can support healthy blood pressure and heart rate.
5 – Nostril Breathing
Yogis use this final technique to try to balance the brain and the senses. With a thumb on one nostril and their index finger on the other, the practitioner breathes in through their left nostril, clamping off the right, then breathes out through the right nostril, clamping off the left. This is repeated until calm and mental clarity has returned.
Easy and Portable
Breathing exercises are free, easy to do, and can be done in just about any environment to support healthy stress levels, mental clarity, and concentration. Start practicing today.
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