Five Types of Breathing for Relaxation

Are you feeling overtired? Have you been working long hours? Find yourself stuck in the overwhelm? Do you feel like you don't have time to take care of yourself? 

Stressful times affect our whole system from hormonal changes, suppressing the immune system to increasing blood pressure and muscle tension to name a few.

Stress accumulates in our daily lives, therefore it is important to ensure time for self care to help balance the various systems of body. Self care can come in many forms from having a massage or acupuncture treatment, to going for a long walk, attending a yoga or fitness class - just to name a few!

While "big picture" self care is important, it can also be helpful to manage stress as it arises. The good news is that the negative effects of the stress response can be balanced by engaging our relaxation response.

Often when we have a lot on our plate we feel like there is no time to participate in some of the bigger self care activities. Whether that means managing a stressful period or an investment in our daily health, breathing practices can support positive mental and physical health. Proper breathing improves concentration, promotes feelings of well being, and reduces muscle tension and fatigue. Other health benefits include: improved immune function, lowered blood pressure, and increased lung capacity. Breathing practices makes us feel better by calming the mind and releasing endorphins that combat stress hormones.

1. The Long Exhale

Level: Beginner 

When to use: During times of stress in the day, at the office, while driving, or other everyday moments of stress. This breath helps induce a relaxation response and when done before bed time promotes healthy sleep. 

Physiology: This breath helps to soothe the Sympathetic nervous system and is great for inducing the relaxation response. It also helps in engaging the lower lobes of our lungs, in maintaining a healthy posture, and in improving sleep. This breath is also important for supporting cardiac function, the circulatory system and immune systems, and can help balance hormones.

Benefits include: Reduce Pain, Reduce Muscle Tension, Lower Blood pressure, Support Cardiac function, Support Immune system, Balance Hormones, Improve sleep, Improve posture.


Method:

Sitting tall with spine straight and feet flat on the floor take a comfortable breath in through the nose. As you breathe in fill the belly for 4 counts. As you exhale through the nose for 8 counts. The breath should be comfortable so adjust your depth and length to suit. The main importance is that the exhalation takes twice as long as the inhalation to promote the relaxation response. Begin this practice for 2 minutes and over time extend the practice to intervals of 5 and 10 minutes. For a quick mindfulness break do 5 -10 breaths. 

 

2. Three-Part Yogic Breathing

Level: Beginner - Moderate

When to use: During times of stress in the day, at the office, while driving, or other everyday moments of stress. This breath helps induce a relaxation response and when done before bed time promotes healthy sleep. 

Physiology: This breath helps to soothe the Sympathetic nervous system and is great for inducing the relaxation response. It also helps in engaging the lower lobes of our lungs, in maintaining a healthy posture, and in improving sleep. This breath is also important for supporting cardiac function, the circulatory system and immune systems, and can help balance hormones.

Benefits include: Reduce Pain, Reduce Muscle Tension, Lower Blood pressure, Support Cardiac function, Support Immune system, Balance Hormones, Improve sleep, Improve posture.

Method: Begin by sitting tall with your spine straight and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in deeply through the nose and allow the belly to rise, then the chest rises, and lastly at the end of the inhalation raise the shoulders towards the ears. Begin to roll the shoulders down your back, exhale through the nose as you drop the shoulders, emptying the breath of the chest,and lastly the belly. Continue like this for a few breaths for a mini session. For longer practices start with this pattern for 2 minutes and over time extend the practice to intervals of 5 and 10 minutes. For a quick mindfulness break, do 5-10 breaths.

 

3. Alternative Nostril Breathing  

Level: Moderate

When to use: This breath is cleansing and stimulating. It can be helpful during times when you need to be focused and alert, such as before a meeting or a test. Other applications include daily stresses you encounter at the office, driving, or at school. This breath helps to balance the left and right lobes of the brain and induce a sense of calm and clarity. 

Physiology: This breath helps to soothe the Sympathetic nervous system and is great for inducing the relaxation response. It also helps in engaging the lower lobes of our lungs, in maintaining a healthy posture, and in improving sleep. This breath is also important for supporting cardiac function, the circulatory system and immune systems, and can help balance hormones.Benefits include:

Benefits include: Reduce Pain, Reduce Muscle Tension, Lower Blood pressure, Support Cardiac function, Support Immune system, Balance Hormones, Improve sleep, Improve posture.

Method: Begin by sitting tall with spine straight and feet flat on the floor. Take the thumb of your right hand and block the right nostril. Take a comfortable breath in through the left nostril. Alternate hands releasing the right nostril and taking the pinky of the right hand to block the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril, then inhale through the same nostril. Alternate hands to release the left nostril and block the right with the thumb. Continue like this for a few breaths for a mini session. For longer practices start with this pattern for 2 minutes and over time extend the practice to intervals of 5 and 10 minutes. For a quick mindfulness break do 5-10 breaths. LL

4. Cooling Breath

Level: Beginner  

When to use: Helpful for reducing body temperature, regulating hormones, and processing anger. 

Physiology: This breath has a soothing effect on the nervous system and reduces blood pressure. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system by triggering a Rest and Digest reaction. This technique is said to help reduce acidity, hypertension, and indigestion.

Benefits include: Reduce Pain, Reduce Muscle Tension, Lower Blood pressure, Support Cardiac function, Support Immune system, Balance Hormones, Improve sleep, Improve posture.

coolingbreath

Method: Fill your belly as you breathe in. To exhale, curl the tongue (or if you can't, purse your lips and stick the tip of your tongue out) and exhale through pursed lips in a slow controlled manner. Begin this practice for 2 minutes and over time extend the practice to intervals of 5 and 10 minutes. For a quick mindfulness break do 5-10 breaths.