When life gets overwhelming, it can help to take a moment to recharge, relax and breathe deeply. Breathing exercises are an ancient and widely-used method for de-stressing; by focusing on your breathing, you can concentrate on being present in the moment, allowing your mind to clear itself of unnecessary noise and clutter.
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The next time you find yourself feeling anxious, overworked or overwhelmed, try these tried-and-true breathing techniques.
1. Diaphragm Breathing
When you breathe deeper, your abdominal muscles become more flexible. Plus, using your diaphragm when you breathe increases your lung capacity, so diaphragm breathing is also recommended for those who are trying to increase their cardiovascular fitness. Try lying on your back and breathing normally, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and stomach. Continue breathing, getting deeper with each inhale and exhalation.
2. Deep, Active Breathing
Increase your oxygen intake by practicing deep, active breathing. It’s believed that this method may help you to feel more energized, so it’s a great one to try the next time you need motivation before a workout. Start by exhaling as much air as you can from your lungs. Inhale through your nose, using a four-count breath. Hold your breath for eight counts (if you’re unable to do this, hold for less. If it feels really difficult, skip holding your breath altogether and just focus on breathing). Exhale through your mouth for an eight-count. Hold your breath for an eight-count. Straighten your posture and repeat.
3. Long Breathing
The long breath hails from Japan, and some even believe it can train your inner muscles to aid with weight loss, particularly with regards to belly fat. Start by strongly exhaling from your upper body, making a sound as if you were throwing a shot-put. This should take no longer than 10 seconds. Repeat six times.
4. Fire Breathing
Also known as Kapalbhati, this breath of fire exercise was made popular by yoga guru Baba Ramdev. Begin by sitting with legs crossed. Keep your body straight and tall. Relax your abdominal muscles. Breathe in deeply. Exhale through your nose (like a sniffle). Feel your ab muscles pull in as you sniff out. Practice doing this exercise 30 to 50 times, working up to five to 10 minutes. Avoid this exercise if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. (It’s advisable to check with your doctor before trying any of these breathing exercises).
5. Focused Breathing
When the stress of the day starts getting to you, excuse yourself for 10 minutes and find a quiet place to sit. The goal is to be calm and concentrate on nothing but your breathing. This can be achieved through guided imagery, imagining yourself somewhere serene and peaceful, or relaxing all your body parts one body part at a time. While focusing on your breath and body, zone in on the cues your body is sending. When you’re in this focused state, try to separate the way hunger feels from the desire to emotionally eat.
6. Bhastrika Pranayama
Designed to bring fresh oxygen into your body, this style of breathing starts with you sitting cross legged. Put your hands on your knees, palms facing up. Breathe normally and relax. Now breathe with all your strength. Let your lungs fill with oxygen. Breathe out through your nose, making a hissing noise as you do. Repeat five to 10 times.