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Breath Work and Meditation to Help Reduce Stress

Did you know that Breath work (Pranayama) helps increase your Vmax, which is your lung capacity?  Breath work also helps reduce stress, tension and anxiety. 

One practice in particular called Bumble Bee Breath has calming effects. Here is the technique. Start with setting a timer for 1 – 2 minutes.

1. Sit in a comfortable position, in a quiet location where you will not be interrupted

2. Close your eyes

3. Relax your body

4. Place your fingers over your ears to firmly close them

5. Focus on your breath, taking 2 – 3 breathes in and out slowly

6. Take a nice long inhalation

7. On your exhalation make a humming sound.  Continue humming for the duration of your exhalation.  It does not need to be loud and should just be experienced as a vibrating hum sound in your head.

8. At the end of your exhalation, inhale without humming

9. And again, as you exhale make a humming sound

10. Don’t rush your inhalations and exhalations, make them spacious and not automatic

Your arms will get tired while you are closing off your ears. So, feel free to adjust how you are closing the ears off.  As you practice it will get more comfortable. It’s best to do this on an empty stomach, before a cup of coffee, and not when you have a headache. Sitting on a cushion or pillow is helpful. Goal for Bumble Bee is to work up to 3 – 5 minutes. Bumble Bee Breath not only calms the mind it prepares the mind for deeper meditation. 


One Simple Meditation you could do following Bumble Bee Breath or whenever you like is outlined below:

1. Sit in a comfortable position, in a quiet location where you will not be interrupted

2. Close your eyes

3. Relax your body

4. You can slightly constrict the back of your throat to create an audible quality to your breath.  This is called Ujjayi breathing, and it helps to focus you on your breath through sound.  If you have very low blood pressure you should not practice this.  Breathe normally without the constriction and sound.

5. As you inhale, you can say to yourself without speaking “I am inhaling”

6. As you exhale, you can say to yourself without speaking “I am exhaling” OR

7. As you inhale, you can say to yourself without speaking “I am”

8. As you exhale, you can say to yourself without speaking “Peace” OR

9. As you inhale and exhale you can simply listen to your breath

10. Don’t rush your inhalations and exhalations, make them spacious and not automatic

Both of these practices are best to do, first thing in the morning right after you wake up or later at night before you go to bed.  However, they can be helpful anytime of the day when you feel particularly anxious or stressed. In addition, Bumble Bee breath work is one of the few breath work practices that is safe for pregnant women.

Meditation for 11 minutes is a good goal, as the calming benefits kick in by then.  Set a timer so you don’t have to watch the clock.  Sitting cross legged on a cushion or pillow is helpful, try to sit as tall and as still as possible.  If your foot falls asleep wiggle your toes or change the position of your legs.