Relaxation Breathing Can Help You Find Calm in the Midst of the Storm

How often do you really pay attention to your breath? If you did, you might be surprised at the story it tells you. Sometimes I catch myself holding my breath when I’m experiencing emotions like sadness, anxiety, or fear. I have to consciously remind myself to breathe. Breathing can also become shallow and effortful when we’re feeling strong emotions. That’s why we tell people who are visibly upset to take a deep breath. Deep breathing naturally calms down our nervous system and restores it to balance.

The breath affects the whole body. Each day we experience different stressors from traffic to deadlines to raising children. How one breathes can help reduce stress and tension and create space for calm and relaxation.

Relaxation Breathing — 3 Tips to Help You Cope During Vulnerable Times

Below are a few breathing techniques for beginners to get you started:

1. Equal Breathing

This controlled breathing exercise called Pranayama will help you regain focus, relax, and return to the present moment. Although it can be done anywhere in four easy steps, it is especially helpful when you’re having difficulty falling asleep due to racing thoughts.

  1. While standing or sitting lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders.
  2. Close your mouth softly so that your lips are touching each other while you close your eyes or gaze downward.
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 3 or 4.
  4. Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of 3 or 4.

Continue breathing evenly. You can increase the count and lengthen the breath. You can also visualize a pyramid where you increase the count to 4, 5, and then 6 or higher. Then, reduce the breath from 6 to 5, 4, etc.

2. Belly Breathing or Abdominal Breathing

Belly breathing is the core of meditational breathing and is used by hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic to strengthen the diaphragm of patients with COPD. There are numerous benefits of using this breathing technique, such as reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and even symptoms of PTSD; however, it’s primary benefit is to reduce stress.

  1. Lie down flat or sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly just below your ribs. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm.
  3. Breathe deeply through your nose and let your belly push your hand out. The hand on your chest should remain still, and your chest should not move.
  4. Pretend you are whistling, and breathe out through pursed lips. Feel the hand on your belly fall inward, and use it to gently push the air out.
  5. Do this exercise 3 to 10 times taking your time with each breath.
  6. Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

Suggested Read: Managing The Effects of Bereavement And Stress

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

This exercise is also referred to as Nadi Shodhana. Nadi means channel and shodhana means to purify or cleanse. Therefore, this breathing technique opens up our channels giving us greater focus. Try this exercise when you need to energize a tired mind and/or body.

  1. Get comfortable in a seated position, and create a long spine. Rest your left palm on your left knee.
  2. Softly close the right nostril using your right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril, and then close the left nostril with your ring finger. Pause. Release your thumb and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
  3. Leave the right nostril open and again inhale slowly. Close it with the thumb. Pause. Release your ring finger and exhale through the left nostril. Once your exhalation is complete, inhale through the left. Pause before moving to the right.
  4. Repeat this pattern five to ten times. When you are finished, place your right hand on your right knee, and return to normal breathing.

“The practice is simply this: keep coming back to your breath during the day. Just take a moment. This will give your mind a steadiness and your breath a gracefulness…There’s so much to let go of, isn’t there? Your nostalgia and your regrets. Your fantasies and your fears. What you think you want instead of what is happening right now. Breathe.” – Rodney Yee