A lot of people probably haven't thought too much about their breath. After all, it is an automatic process of life. But, understanding the importance of doing so is one of the most simple and effective methods of reducing stress in our everyday lives! We all have stress that we deal with, it is just the nature of living the way we do, so let’s go back to the root of our existence to help us through it and spend some time thinking about our breathing. There are many methods of incorporating this tool into our busy schedules, but here I will go through a couple of my personal favorites. They can be looked at as the sibling to the meditation we may think of doing in a yoga studio. Unlike most meditation, these breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time, as they are discrete and relatively fast- acting. Here are different ways to breathe away stress. Let’s get to it!
Box Breathing is a great calming breath achieved by slow and deep inhales and exhales. To begin, relax your body and decide to either close your eyes softly or focus on something that is not moving. If possible, consider going to a place without distractions and possibly dim lighting, as is helpful with any breathing exercises. Breathe in slowly through your nose with your mouth softly closed for four counts. Hold the breath in for four seconds to allow your lungs to fill with the air you just breathed in. Next, breathe out for four counts through your mouth. Finally, if it feels good, hold the exhale out for the final four counts of the cycle. If not, simply begin to inhale through your nose again to repeat the round. This will be a personal preference and does not affect the benefits of box breathing. Repeat this breathing exercise at least three consecutive times for maximum benefit. Box breathing will regulate the shallow breathing that people typically engage in if they are feeling nervous or stressed and will bring about a sense of ease. You will feel better immediately, I assure you!
THE 4-7-8 TECHNIQUE
The second breathing exercise that I often recommend is mostly used for falling asleep, which can be difficult to do if there is a lot on your mind. I know that there have been many instances where I get frustrated by the fact that I can’t wind down and fall asleep as quickly as I want to. Luckily, we can look to our breath to help us with this as well through utilizing another simple exercise. It is called the 4-7-8 technique, and is based upon ancient Indian practice, which is the basis for many of the yoga and meditation practices that we know today. To begin, place the tip of your tongue against the gum line behind your top front teeth and keep it there for the whole sequence. First, exhale through your mouth. With your tongue placed behind your teeth, it will make a "whoosh" sound. Then, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 counts. Next, hold your breath for 7 counts. Finally, breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts to make another "whoosh" sound. Repeat this cycle three more times. Some claim that it makes them fall asleep within a minute, as it often does for me. Regardless of whether or not it works this quickly for you too, it will do an excellent job of relaxing your mind and body to prepare for improved sleep. No more tossing and turning waiting to get to sleep to prepare for the next day or staring at your clock in disbelief that you are still awake. Sweet dreams as you breathe away stress!
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