Three simple ways to reduce stress and find your balance; why you should try these doctor-designed breathing techniques, and how to do them…
Meditation is fast becoming something which people consider a way of life, something which we do on a regular basis as part of our regular routines. Within the bracket of meditation falls other concepts which are also taking on a notable and conscious part of our rhythm. Breath work for example; breathing techniques used to relax us and reduce anxiety, is another method by which we manage our stress levels in a world where ‘fight or flight’ is no longer the appropriate reaction to it. Breathing, when consciously done with purpose, can be a saviour within the complicated environment that is our psyche. This active form of meditation comes in many forms, generally detailing different lengths for inhalation and exhalation based on repetition and a calming of the mind and therefore body.
Breath work also activates our parasympathetic nervous system; when oxygen enters the body in particular rhythms we release tension, it is as simple as that. If you find yourself struggling with a particularly stressful situation, find a quiet space, close your eyes and breathe in and out consciously for a few seconds and a little longer out; you’ll notice the difference – your breathing will slow your heart rate down and calm your nerves, leaving you feeling far less under pressure.
There are countless options when it comes to selecting a technique for your breath work, however I recently came across a particular doctor, Andrew Weil MD, who recommends the following three exercises to help combat stress and aid relaxation. His perspective outlines that breathing is a very useful tool; one which we have control over and may regulate easily. You will work out which techniques work for you as you try them, take note of your general state of mind both before and after practicing these methods.
THE STIMULATING BREATH
This particular exercise, also commonly known as the ‘Bellows Breath’ stems from a yogic background. The aim of the technique is to lift our energy levels and increase our awareness and alertness.
This exercise is a rather odd one in terms of how you look and sound whilst in practice! It is a rapidly performed technique using short breaths and entails you making quite a bit of noise; for this reason you might want to find a private space to carry it out.
- Breathe in and out quickly; as quick as you can but keeping the inhalation and exhalation lengths equal.
- Keep your mouth closed at all times when breathing
- Aim to reach three in-out breaths per second and continue for a maximum of 15 seconds on your first attempt. Once to get accustomed, lengthen the time by 5 seconds each sitting until you can manage a whole minute.
THE 4-7-8 EXERCISE
This is the perfect exercise for reducing stress when you feel it may be approaching. When tension starts to rise take time out and try this technique.
Also labelled the ‘Relaxing Breath Technique’, this exercise will be your friend wherever you may find yourself; you need no equipment and minimal time. Dr. Weil recommends being seated throughout the practice, or at least whilst you are learning it.
The effects of this practice build over time but the purpose is to slow down your nervous system in order to calm and relax us both mentally and physically. You can use the technique at least twice a day, but not too frequently – Dr. Weil recommends limiting the practice to four breaths until you have done it for at least one month. Once you feel like you have mastered that he says you can increase it to eight repetitions. Side effects that may be experienced as a novice are lightheadedness, comparable to standing up too quickly, which will soon pass.
- Press the tip of your tongue to the ridge just behind your front top teeth.
- Exhale all your breath through your mouth and make a ‘whoosh’ noise.
- Close the mouth inhaling gently for four seconds.
- Now hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Then exhale once again through the mouth, around the tongue, and make the ‘whoosh’ sound whilst counting to eight.
- Repeat this cycle four times in total.
This is a more meditative style technique which can take around ten minutes or more depending on you.
- Sit somewhere peaceful and comfortable with your back straight
- Drop your head slightly forward.
- Close your eyes and start to breathe deeply, then relax and allow your breath to flow naturally.
- Count one when you first exhale, then two, then three and continue to five.
- Once you complete one circuit of five, begin the process again and repeat for around ten minutes.
When breath work starts to become part of your daily routine or at least a part of your stress-relief, you will begin to feel that tension will reduce naturally as you know you have a technique to relieve it. I personally feel that this is an incredible tool to have in your personal wellness belt as it is always with you and simple to achieve. When things get tough, just breathe!
Online diploma courses in Meditation and Yoga
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we have over 60 holistic health therapies to choose from – view our listing here.
Some of our most popular courses, like Meditation, Yoga and Mindfulness, incorporate breathing techniques:
Meditation – This course, takes the student on a journey through both Eastern and Western ‘meditation techniques’; from ‘Chakra Balancing’ to ‘Walking the Labyrinth
Mindfulness – The course discusses many techniques to help manage stress and pain levels and improve relationships. Where our suffering comes from is explained, looking in detail at our thoughts and emotions and how they rule us.
Yoga – This course covers the basic benefits for obtaining relaxation through the principle of Yoga. It is aimed at students who wish to obtain competence in practising and working with clients.