Breathing forms a vital part of our daily lives and without it, we wouldn’t be able to function, but did you know you can also combat stress with breathing exercises? These exercises offer an effective, simple, and hassle-free way to relieve anxiety, increase relaxation, and heighten motivation, while also boosting our energy levels and combating numerous other stress-related ailments.
Here we’ve listed a number of stress-relief and relaxing breathing exercises you can try at home or while out and about. Some you may have heard of, while others are more unique, yet all promise to help manage your stress levels.
The power of counting breathes
This is perhaps one of the most common breathing exercises and involves counting while breathing in and out. This style of exercise is often used in meditation and helps with pacing. This technique encourages you to lengthen your exhales, and ultimately elongate your breath.
One way to do this involves pushing your tongue onto the roof of your mouth while inhaling, before then breathing through your nose, and counting to five.
This assists with slowing your breathing. When you come to exhale, make sure you continue to breathe out for a count of eight. This will ensure you empty your lungs entirely, thus helping to promote a feeling of relaxation.
Alternatively, you could try another variation of this technique which is known as ‘four-seven-eight breathing’ and which comes highly recommended by numerous wellness experts. Here you’ll need to breathe in and count to four, before then holding your breath while counting to seven.
Finally, you breathe out while counting to eight. Pausing in-between breaths really helps to slow your mind down.
Find breathing patterns that are comfortable for you
Simply counting your breath can help to relax your mind as it makes you focus on just one thing. When doing this, take time to experiment and find a timing that feels comfortable to you. Practicing counting whilst you breathe helps you to breathe slowly and steadily, ensuring your mind stays focused on the moment as opposed to the stresses going on around us.
This can take a little while to master, but once in the moment, you’ll find you can shut everything else out – perfect for those looking for a moment of calm in a busy household.
Explore the role of deep breathing
To practice deep breathing – also known as mindful diaphragmatic breathing – make sure you’re sat in a comfortable spot. Many opt for a crossed-legged position. Once comfortable, close your eyes, and begin to listen to your breath, paying particular attention to depth and pace. Are you breathing rapidly, slowly, erratically, or deeply?
Allowing yourself to truly become aware of your breathing motions will assist you in becoming more in tune with the way your body responds to stress. Next time you’re feeling anxious you will know to slow your breathing down, which can be done with long-drawn-out breaths.
Visualize blowing up a balloon
Again, this exercise requires you to sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Start to breathe in slowly and deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you inhale, picture your abdomen filling up with air, just like a balloon. As you breathe out, picture the air slowly escaping the balloon.
Some say it helps to relax them even further when they visualize the balloon floating up into the air as they breathe in. This is a great practice for those suffering from stress, as it helps to regulate breathing and can bring a calming influence over the body.
Imagine your stresses melting away
Another good exercise to combat stress involves simply imagining those stresses disappearing. It might sound simple, but while sitting comfortably, shut your eyes, and begin deep breathing. As you breathe in, imagine that every element of stress is congregating in your chest, and as you breathe out, really let it all go!
Slowly, and with deliberation, repeat the process. Hopefully, you’ll begin to feel your stresses leave your body after just several breaths.
Have you considered cleansing breaths?
If you’re holding a lot of tension in your back, neck, and shoulders, this is the exercise for you. A few deep cleansing breaths that really focus on emptying the lungs can have the effect of leaving you feeling lighter, cleaning, and fresher. To release even more tension, simply repeat this process several times.
Alternate the nostril used for breathing
This common breathing exercise has been practiced for centuries and began as a form of meditation. To practice this at home, take a deep breath in while holding your finger over your right nostril, ensuring you only breathe through your left nostril.
When you exhale, swap nostrils. There is no set pace for this exercise and you should choose whatever feels comfortable.