“Feelings come and go like clouds in the sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathing techniques are now such an important part of my daily routine. I couldn’t think of starting a day without doing my breathing exercises.
I usually combine these with my morning meditation, which, through sheer perseverance, I have made into a habit and have been doing for the last few years.
Almost everywhere you look you can find stress—at work, at home, on the road. It’s hard to avoid it and even harder to not get sucked in.
I used to let stress get the better of me on a daily basis, through an incredibly stressful and demanding job. That was until I realized the dangerous effects it was having on my body.
I worked in video production as a producer, where there was a new type of stress every single day.
There were so many cogs that all had to fall perfectly into place for the production to move ahead, not to mention the amount of people who would depend and rely on me. The deadlines were tight, and to make sure that every stage of production was complete, I often had to work long hours.
This was an incredibly stress-inducing job, and so often I felt myself getting overtired and angry due to the workload.
Stress can make it near enough impossible to control your emotions. I found the more stressed I became, the more irrational I would become.
Stress is also strongly linked to diseases, and chronic stress can give these conditions the green light to flood your body. Stress has been linked to cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver.
Not to mention that stress can make you gain weight and look older, and ruin your relationships.
After understanding that I was a very stressed person, often attracting stressful situations into my life, I decided to learn stress-combating techniques.
The best methods I discovered were various breathing techniques. They’re quick to do and have amazing results.
Now, if I ever feel myself getting stressed or am about to enter a stressful situation, I simply stop for a moment and use one of my breathing techniques. This instantly calms be down and has an immediate effect of my state of mind, allowing me to think clearly and rationally.
Breathing is used in meditation as a method to relax the body fully and achieve a clear state of mind. We are extremely lucky that such a powerful tool, like breathing, is something that we can regulate and control ourselves.
Practicing breathing techniques it will not only give you beneficial life tools, but they are also a great starting point for your meditation journey.
The techniques I have shared are simple and easy to learn. Some will bring calm and inner peace, while others can be used to kick-start your mental awareness and vital energy.
Abdominal breathing slows your entire body down; your heart rate and blood pressure reduce with each controlled deep breath you take.
Your aim during this technique is to focus on your diaphragm, not your chest, as you breathe.
To begin, place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly.
Breathe in through your nose enough for your diaphragm to inflate with enough air to produce a stretch in your lungs. Then exhale slowly.
Make sure each breath is deep and steady.
Repeat this technique with seven to ten breaths per minute for ten minutes.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (aka Nadi Shodhana)
This technique will unite both sides of your brain while bringing calm and balance.
To begin, sit in a comfortable meditative pose; this can be on the floor, on a chair or a sofa, wherever is most comfortable for you.
Now, hold your right nostril down with your thumb or one of your fingers on your right hand. Breathe in deeply through your left nostril.
When you’re at the peak of inhalation, let go of your right nostril and cover the left. Then, exhale through the right nostril. Continue with this technique for as long as needed until you feel calm and focused.
Because this method connects your brain on a deep level, you shouldn’t practice this technique before going to bed.
Instead, if you need to prepare for a big presentation or a difficult job interview, or you’re in any kind of nervous situation, take a few minutes practicing alternate nostril breathing to calm yourself. Doing this will help quiet your mind so that you can be the best version of yourself without having to worry about the nerves!
Not only will you experience calm and balance, but you will feel focused and super energized.
Relaxing Breath (aka “4-7-8”)
This technique is used to completely relax the body and nervous system. It can be used in many different scenarios—when you feel internal tension, when something upsetting happens, or simply to help you relax you before sleep.
Before you begin this technique, ensure you are sitting comfortably with your back as straight as possible.
Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth where they meet the gum ridge. You will need to keep your tongue here for the duration of the technique.
Start by exhaling fully. Usually, because of where your tongue is placed, this would make a natural “whoosh” sound.
Inhale quietly for a count of four. Once reached, hold your breath here for a count of seven and then exhale fully for a count of eight. This is one full breath. You should aim to do four or five full breaths each time you practice this technique.
Stillness in Breath
If you are able to focus on your breath for long periods of time, then this technique is for you.
This breathing awareness variation doesn’t involve any counting, merely observing.
To begin, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and begin observing your breathing pattern.
Once you have settled in to the process of observing your natural breathing rhythm, turn your awareness to the point at which the breath switches from inhalation to exhalation. Then observe as it changes from exhalation to inhalation. Notice that there is a gap, or still pause, between the breaths.
If you find that your mind wanders during this variation, simply keep guiding your attention back to this still pause between each stage of breath. The more you practice this technique the more it becomes a continuous experience in which you will find peace.
Stimulating Breath (aka Bellows Breath)
Bellows Breath is used to invigorate your senses and sharpen your mind. If practiced well, you will raise your vital energy and feel an increased level of alertness.
To begin, sit comfortably. You don’t need to be in a certain position or sat anywhere in particular for this technique.
Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose. Try to keep your mouth shut and as relaxed as possible. Aim to keep your inhales and exhales equal in duration but as reduced as possible.
For beginners, you should start by practicing this technique for a maximum of fifteen seconds. As you become more comfortable you can increase this time by five seconds each time your practice until you reach a full minute.
Like alternate nostril breathing, this technique connects with your mind on a deep level and shouldn’t be used before you go to sleep.
Next time you feel like you need an energy boost, instead of reaching for caffeine, try this technique and see how invigorated you feel afterwards!
By practicing breathing meditation for ten to fifteen minutes a day you will be able to reduce your stress and anxiety levels significantly. You’ll start to experience calmness of the mind, the turbulence of day-to-day worries will simply fall away, and feelings of happiness and fulfilment will rise from within.