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5 Amazing Breathing Exercises to Help Alleviate Stress & Make You Feel Alive.

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The act of breathing is something we do between 17 000 to 30 000 or more times a day but it is something that we take for granted, or in fact, do not even realize we are doing. It is a very regular and powerful bodily function and when looked into deeper, can also be used as a mindful and even spiritual tool. Deep breathing for stress relief and a happy mind is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries. Regular, mindful breathing can be calming, relaxing and energizing especially for those who are finding themselves amongst particularly stressful times or are experiencing stress-related health problems, ranging from anxiety and panic attacks to digestive disorders and insomnia.

Below is a list of five of the best breathing exercises that should be incorporated into your life for both health and general well being.

Stimulating breathing (Bellows breath):

This type of breathing exercise has been derived from yogic breathing techniques and has as its core the ability to raise vital energy, as well as to increase alertness. After doing this technique you should feel as energized and full of the awareness; similar to the feeling that you experience after a good workout. You will feel the effort of the exercise behind the neck, the chest, the diaphragm and the abdomen and this will help reduce your everyday stress.

To do the Bellows breath:

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose. You must keep your mouth closed but relaxed. Keep these breaths even on both the inhale and exhale and make sure that the breaths are the same length.
  • It is best to try for three in-and-out breaths per second. By doing so, you are producing a quick movement of the diaphragm, signifying a bellows. Breath normally between each of the cycles. Do not do more then 15 seconds on your first try.

Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti):

Balance is so good for the body, whether it be regarding diet, physical exercise, social life or even the breath. Sama Vritti takes the idea of balance and equal breathing length and uses it to quiet the mind and to stop a racing heart. This exercise is great for anyone experiencing insomnia or if you are having trouble sleeping, as it calms the autonomic nervous system. It holds the same weight in the brain as that of counting sheep.

To do Sama Vritti:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed or lie on your back.
  • Inhale and count to four and exhale for a count of four. All breathing should be done through the nose for more natural resistance to the breath.
  • If you are a little more experienced with deep breathing, increase your count time for both your inhale and exhale.

Alternative Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):

Nadi Shodhana or Alternative nostril breathing is used to improve alertness and can be likened to the feeling of having a cup of coffee. Nadi Shodhana is a powerful breathing technique that has far reaching benefits. It is said to clear and purify the channels of the mind and body, while also balancing both the feminine and masculine parts of the brain. It is a great breathing exercise when you are looking for alertness as it clears blocked passages and rejuvenates the nervous system.

To do Nadi Shodhana:

  • Sit in a comfortable meditative position.
  • Begin by closing off the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the right finger and exhale completely through the right nostril. Continue this pattern.

Kapalabhati (Skull-shining Breath):

Kapalabhati is the perfect way to begin every day. It is said to help the brain focus on the positives and to help look at the world in a shining light. We all fall into negative thought patterns, sometimes we get so deep we do not even see the negative ways in which we are viewing the world and the impact that this way of thinking is having on us. Kapalabhati is like a shot of espresso for positivity and will shake off stale and negative energy and wake up the brain. The benefits are aplenty and include warming the body, releasing toxins, improving digestion, increasing oxygen to cells and focusing attention, just to name a few.

To do Kapalabhati:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your belly.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose and fill your belly until about ¾ full.
  • In a quick motion, forcefully exhale all your air from your lungs while drawing your navel towards your back with the primary movement being from your diaphragm.
  • Allow your lungs to refill naturally while your belly expands.
  • Perform this ten times and then breath normally while you consider the sensations within your body.

Box Breathing:

Box breathing is a powerful stress-relieving tool and can be used to relax the mind if it is obsessively worrying or focusing on a thought or event. It is used by many and has even been used by athletes, US Navy seals, nurses and Doctors to relieve stress and to increase focus. If you are being kept awake by anxious thoughts or are worried about something that happened in the past or are experiencing negative emotions like fear or anger, the box breathing technique would be perfect for you.

To do Box Breathing:

  • Inhale for a count to four
  • Hold for a count to four
  • Exhale for a count to four
  • Wait for a count to four
  • Repeat until you feel calm again and can feel yourself becoming centred
  • You can trace your finger in a box like figure as you complete each step if visualization helps you to be calm.

Life is a very stressful day to day pilgrimage. There are many elements to every single walk of life that can lead us to feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or simply tired and unsure. Deep breathing has been used for centuries to heal these very feelings and the most important thing is, deep breathing techniques actually work! Do your body and mind a favor and sit quietly and get in touch with your breath.

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