Are you contemplating practising deep breathing exercises to reduce stress? If the answer is yes, then you are in the right direction. Breathing heals on many levels and understanding how it works is beneficial for both physical and mental well being. Different types of breathing exercises affect your body differently. Knowing which ones to practice when and why is crucial.
Here is a look at the various types of breathing exercises that can help you relieve stress and take control of your body –
- Equal Breathing or ‘Sama Vritti’
- Abdominal Breathing Technique
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Alternate Nostril Breathing or ‘Nadi Shodhana’
- Skull-shining Breath or ‘Kapalabhati’
Equal Breathing or ‘Sama Vritti’
Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Then you should try practising ‘Sama vritti’ or equal breathing. Yoga experts suggest that this particular breathing exercise helps calm your mind and take off whatever keeps you distracted at bedtime.
Tips to perform it: Start by lying down or sitting in a comfortable position with eyes closed. Breathe in for four counts and then breathe out for four counts through your nose. This adds a slight, natural resistance to your breath. You can increase the count to 6-8 per breath later.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
Have you ever felt the butterflies in your stomach right before a big presentation or an exam? This usually happens when you are put in a stressful situation that gets you too nervous or anxious. In this case, abdominal breathing can be helpful. The breathing technique works by improving your blood pressure and heart rate, thereby reducing stress.
Tips to perform it: Sit comfortably placing one hand on the belly and the other on your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to be aerated to create a stretching sensation in the lungs. Take 6-10 slow, deep breaths per minute for at least 10 minutes, daily.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When you experience stress or anxiety, one of the many ways your body responds is with muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation can effectively reduce tension or anxiety by alternating tightness and relaxation in the muscles.
Tips to perform it: Start by sitting comfortably or lying down with your eyes closed. Focus on contracting and relaxing each muscle group for about 2-3 seconds. You should start with your toes and feet, and then move up to your thighs, glutes, knees, arms, chest, hands, jaw, neck and eyes. Throughout the entire time, make sure you maintain slow, deep breaths. Practising progressive muscle relaxation will give you a greater sense of control over the body’s anxiety response.
Alternate Nostril Breathing or ‘Nadi Shodhana’
Do you have trouble concentrating at work? This could be due to exhaustion, anxiety, or emotional stress. Alternate nostril breathing can help improve your concentration and mental clarity when the mind is scattered. The breathing technique works by providing equal amounts of oxygen to either side of your brain. It is a great exercise to perform prior to an important event, where you need you to stay focused, like an interview or an exam, or a meeting.
Tips to perform it: Sit comfortably with your legs folded. Hold out your dominant hand and press the tips of your index finger and middle finger into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger extended.
Bring your hand up in front of your face and press the thumb on the outside of one nostril. Take in a deep breath through your open nostril. Slowly release your thumb and exhale pressing your ring finger on the outside of the other nostril. Continue doing this for about a minute or two before switching sides. Make sure you spend equal amounts of time exhaling and inhaling through both nostrils.
Skull-shining Breath or ‘Kapalabhati’
What do you do to detoxify, feel your energies, and restore balance within the space you have? The answer is simple – ‘kapalabhati’. Practising this breathing exercise generates heat in the body, and flushes out toxins and other waste matters. Besides, it also helps to remove blockages in the lungs and the heart to improve blood supply to various body parts.
Tips to perform it: Sit in an upright position and place your hands on the knees. Take a slow, long breath through the nose. Exhale with a powerful blow by contracting your lower abdomen. Focus on exhaling forcefully as you continue this breathing exercise. Once you feel comfortable contracting your lower belly, increase your pace to one inhale-exhale every two seconds for 10 breaths.
The Bottom Line
Most of these breathing techniques are very easy to execute. However, take your time to experiment with the different types of breathing exercises. Ensure that these practices become a part of your daily routine to live a healthier and fulfilling life.