Need to Unwind? These Breathing Exercises Can Help

Right now, pause what you're doing and take a long, deep inhale. Then, let it out. You may automatically feel a little better, a little lighter, and if so, you aren't imagining it. Breath work is a very powerful tool proven to relieve emotional distress, release toxins, improve blood pressure and elevate mood. So, the next time you feel like hitting the pause button, try the breathing exercises below.

4-7-8

4-7-8 is one of the most commonly practiced breathing techniques, and for good reason. It incorporates breath retention exercises to control the speed and volume of the breath, and just a few rounds will immediately help calm the mind and alleviate muscle tension.

  1. Sit in a comfortable, seated position
  2. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds
  4. Exhale through your mouth, making an audible whooshing sound for 8 seconds
  5. Repeat up to 4 times

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Also known as nadi shodhana pranayama, which in Sanskrit translates as "subtle energy clearing breathing technique." Many yoga and meditation instructors teach this breathing exercise as a way to cope with anxiety.

  1. Sit in a comfortable, seated position
  2. Relax your left palm onto your lap
  3. Hold up your right hand and fold your index and middle fingers inward toward your palm
  4. Bring your right hand toward your face and rest your thumb on your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers on your left nostril (this is also known as Vishnu Mudra)
  5. Block your right nostril lightly with your thumb, and inhale through your left nostril
  6. Close your left nostril with your ring and pinky fingers so that both nostrils are now closed
  7. Hold your breath for a brief moment, around five to eight seconds
  8. Keep your left nostril closed and exhale completely through your right nostril
  9. Pause at the bottom of your exhale, and inhale through your right nostril
  10. Close both your nostrils with your hands in the same position described in step 6
  11. Open your left nostril and exhale
  12. Repeat 5-10 cycles

2:1 Breathing

When we are stressed, our breathing is affected. It becomes faster and shallower, impacting our sympathetic nervous system. 2:1 breathing is a highly effective way to reduce stress in the present moment.

  1. Sit in a comfortable, seated position
  2. Inhale through your nose to the count of 2, 3 or 4 (whichever you prefer)
  3. Exhale through your nose for double the count of your inhale; 4, 6 or 8

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