Breath in, breath out. Not that hard right? We breathe unconsciously, but not always in the right way. Proper breathing is essential for a healthy body and a calm mind. Various minor and major complaints and ailments can arise when you do not breathe properly. Think of stress, tension, concentration problems, headaches, chronic fatigue, restlessness, and so on.
Yoga breathing exercises
Below are 6 exercises to be more aware of your breathing and to become more relaxed. You usually do them sitting down and it works best if you are comfortable. A yoga cushion or a meditation mat will help with this. You can also do these exercises while lying in bed or sitting in front of the computer.
In fact, always when you need it. Isn't that great :-)
1. Sama Vritti or “Identical Breathing”
Balance does a body good, starting with breathing.
Start by breathing in for 4 counts and exhaling for 4 counts (both through the nose). When you have mastered this pranayama (= the control of the breath) you can try to go to 6 or 8 counts. This breath calms the nervous system, increases your focus and lowers stress.
When are you doing this? Anytime, anywhere, but it works best before going to sleep because it works like counting sheep. Breathing ensures that you can only think about your breathing and not about things that can distract you.
2. Abdominal breathing - against stress
Sit comfortably on your favorite meditation mat. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, take a deep breath through your nose, making sure your diaphragm (not your chest) takes in enough air to stretch your lungs. Take 6 to 10 slow breaths per minute and do this every day for 10 minutes to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
When are you doing this? For a stressful situation, think of a job interview or an exam. It can be difficult to control your breathing at first, but after 6 or 8 weeks you will notice that you feel better.
3. Meditation Breathing to Relax
To release the pressure in your body, close your eyes and focus on relaxing each muscle group for 2 or 3 seconds. Start with your feet and toes, and work your way up through the knees, thighs, chest, arms, etc. while breathing deeply and slowly.
Do you find this difficult? Breathe in through your nose, hold for a count of 5 while tensing your muscles, then exhale through your nose as well, relaxing your muscles.
When are you doing this? At home, at your desk or even in the car (eg, if you are in a traffic jam, of course you should not close your eyes when you are driving). Note, if you start to feel dizzy or if your breathing doesn't feel right, take it easy.
4. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternative Nasal Breathing”
This breath brings calm, balance and brings the left and right sides of your brain together. Start in a comfortable (meditation) position, close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply through your left nostril. At the peak of your breath, close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril.
Repeat, inhale through your right nostril, hold it closed with your right thumb and exhale through your left nostril.
When are you doing this? At any time of the day when you need to focus again or need energy. So not before going to bed, because this exercise actually wakes you up.
5. Guided Visualization Meditation Exercise
Do like Peter Pan and “think happy thoughts”. Breathe deeply while thinking about nice, positive things. It helps with being mindful because you are thinking about where you would like to be, and not worrying.
When are you doing this? Anywhere you can close your eyes and let yourself go.
6. Kapalabhati or "Breathing That Brings Enlightenment"
This yoga breathing exercise begins with a long, slow inhale followed by a quick, strong exhale from your lower abdomen. Once you have mastered this, you can increase the exercise by breathing in and out every 1 or 2 second(s) and that 10 times in a row.
When are you doing this? When you want to wake up or just need an energy shot. It is an intense exercise that warms up your body and wakes up your brain.
Help with yoga and meditation breathing
Breathing exercises can feel a little uncomfortable at first, especially when you practice them at home for the first time. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone. There are several styles of yoga where conscious breathing is part of the routine. You can easily take these exercises home with you.
Of course, there are also free online classes that you can take. For some, guided meditation is a great way to achieve proper breathing.
We wish you a lot of relaxation. Breath in, breath out.