May07

Breathe your Stress Away

We are experiencing a difficult time and being at home can be stressful. It is natural to feel stressed in these situations. To cope with such stressors in the environment or within ourselves, there are simple breathing exercises that help in bringing our focus back to the present moment. Breathing is a life force that connects us to our surroundings and ourselves. It is one of the earlier techniques used for healing and relaxation that help in reducing stress and anxiety. It connects us to the cycle of life that governs our surroundings while helping us to be more mindful at home and balance our work during this quarantine period. 

To help us cope with the present day scenario, here are five breathing techniques for you to try at home: 

 

1. Belly Breathing: Translating to ‘breathing deeply into the stomach’. Belly breathing is similar to the way we naturally breathe. Our way of natural breathing is usually ineffective in dealing with daily stress we face. Breath becomes shorter, filling only the lungs while tightening the belly. Belly breathing allows the flow of oxygen to move through the body, helping in calming and easing the mind. 

 

Try it:

  • Sit straight and place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Place the second hand on the center of your chest. 
  • Breathe in deeply through your nostrils and let your first hand be pushed out by your stomach. Your chest should remain relatively still. 
  • Breathe out through your lips, pursing them as if you were about to whistle. Gently guide the hand on your stomach inwards, helping to press out the breath. Repeat between 3 - 10 times. 

 

2. Equal Breathing: Stemming from the ancient ‘pranayama yoga’, the practice of equal breathing while sitting or lying down, means inhaling equal lengths of breath and exhaling the same amount. This breathing technique helps in building a stronger mind and a healthier body by removing distractions and gaining focus. 

Try it:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes and pay attention to the way you normally breathe for several breaths. 
  • Then, slowly count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale through your nose. Exhale for the same four-second count. 
  • As you inhale and exhale, be mindful of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs. 

 

3. 4-7-8 Breathing: This breathing pattern helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and physical ailments. Also known as ‘rhythmic breathing’, it has been a core technique amongst many yoga and meditation practices promoting relaxation. 

Try it: 

  • With one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest, breathe in slowly but deeply.
  • Take 4 seconds to breathe in, feeling your stomach move in the process. 
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Breathe out for 8 seconds, as silently as you can manage. 
  • Once you reach a count of 8, you should have completely emptied your lungs of air. Repeat as many times as you need, making sure to stick to the 4-7-8 pattern. 

 

4. Lion’s Breath: Another mindful breathing practice to help the brain and body relax, Lion’s Breath, usually accompanies the practice of ‘simhasana’ (lion’s pose), but it can be performed in any comfortable and stable position. It is an energizing technique resulting in both physical and mental benefits. This awakening breathing exercise helps the circulation in the body and relieves it of any stress or tension. 

Try it:

  • Sit cross-legged and bring your hands to your knees, stretching out your arms and your fingers. 
  • Focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) or the end of your nose while exhaling. Relax your face as you inhale again. 

 

5. Alternate Nostril Breathing: It’s a yogic breath control practice for a quiet and still mind. This is a subtle energy clearing breathing technique improving heart functions, lung functions, respiratory endurance and promoting overall wellbeing.

Try it: 

  • Use your right thumb to close your right-hand nostril and inhale slowly through the left. Pinch your nose closed between your right thumb and ring finger, holding the breath in for a moment. 
  • Use your right ring finger to close your left nostril and exhale through the right. 
  • Inhale slowly through the right nostril. Pinch your nose closed again for a moment. Now, open the left side and exhale, waiting a moment before you inhale again. 

These are a few variations of breathing techniques, which regulates the quality of breath – in terms of length, rhythm, and intensity. These techniques give immediate results while we are facing this current stressful situation. We are all facing a situation of a pandemic, experiencing a complete lockdown and home quarantined for days. These breathing exercises will be beneficial for each one of us, while we keep practicing social distancing and self-isolation. Breathing exercises are therapeutic practices and it is the first step towards relaxation and healing while boosting immunity in the process. 

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