Breathwork therapy consists of breathing exercises that can help you improve your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Breathwork has been used for thousands of years in meditative practices. It enables you to bring awareness and control your breath to relax, reduce the physical effects of stress, and improve your mental state.
There are many different breathing exercises and techniques you can practice, each with its own set of benefits.
1. Box Breathing
This breathing technique is often practiced during periods of extreme stress to regulate the autonomic nervous system. It consists of very deep breathing to slow down the breath and allow CO2 to build up in the blood to promote calmness.
To practice box breathing:
Inhale and count to 4 as you do so.
Hold your breath for a count of 4.
Exhale for a count of 4.
Wait at the very end of the exhale for another count of 4, then repeat.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Also known as Nadi Shodhana, this breathing technique is often recommended to increase energy and promote calmness. It’s best to practice alternate nostril breathing in a sitting position, with a long spine.
To practice alternate nostril breathing:
Close off one nostril with your thumb.
When your lungs are fully expanded, release your thumb.
Immediately close off the opposite nostril with your ring finger.
Repeat while switching nostrils.
3. Breath of Fire
The breath of fire is also known as bellows breath or Bhastrika. It’s often compared to a cup of coffee due to its energizing effects, so it’s an excellent option if you’re zapped of energy.
To practice the breath of fire:
Sit with a tall spine.
Breath out halfway and then using the diaphragm, push the breath out. You don’t actually inhale, but the lungs fill up naturally because you’re forcing the air out. Your ab muscles should contract and your stomach should quickly rise and fall.
Start with 30 seconds.
Bellows breath is known as one of the most challenging breathing exercises because it requires careful coordination between your abdominal muscles and diaphragm. It’s recommended to work with a breathing coach to perfect this technique.
4. Lion’s Breath
This energizing breathing technique is also known as Lion’s pose, Sanskrit, or simhasana. It is practiced to relieve tension.
Press your palms against your needs and spread your fingers wide.
Inhale through your nose deeply. Keep your eyes open wide.
Open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. The tip of your tongue should reach down towards your chin.
Exhale through your mouth while contracting the front muscles of your throat. Make a long “ha” sound.
Repeat 2 or 3 times.
5. Equal Breathing
Also known as sama vritti, equal breathing focuses on making your inhales and exhales the same length in order to bring about a sense of balance to the moment. The tricky part is to find a breath length that’s sustainable but not too easy. If you breathe too fast, you might not be able to practice this technique for very long. Ideally, find a breath length between 3 and 5 counts that works best for you.
To practice equal breathing:
Get into a seated position
Breathe in and out through your nose, counting each inhale and exhale to ensure they are the same duration.
Continue for a minimum of 5 minutes.
6. Resonant Breathing
Breathing in at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute is known as resonant breathing. At this breathing rate, your heart rate variability is maximized, which can help reduce symptoms of stress and depression.
To practice resonant breathing:
Inhale for a count of 5.
Exhale for a count of 5.
Continue this pattern for several minutes.
7. Sitali Breath
Relax your mind and reduce your body temperature with the Sitali breath yoga breathing practice. With this technique, you’re going to extend your breath length.
Sit in a comfortable seated position.
Stick out your tongue and curl it to bring the outer edges together (or purse your lips).
Inhale through the mouth.
Exhale through the nose.
Repeat for 5 minutes.
8. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing techniques are often recommended for reducing anxiety. While it’s a relatively simple exercise, it’s also very effective.
To practice deep breathing:
Get in any position (sitting, standing, lying down).
Relax your abdominal muscles.
Place one hand under your ribs.
Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose. Pay attention to your hand rising as you inhale.
Exhale through your mouth, focusing once again on your hand falling.
9. Quieting Response
If you’re looking to naturally reduce anxiety and stress, quieting response breathing might be the right exercise for you. It combines deep breathing (described above) with visualization.
To practice quieting response breathing:
Relax the muscles in your face, neck, and shoulders. Imagine having holes in the soles of your feet.
Take a deep breath while visualizing your breath as hot air entering your body through the holes in your soles.
Image the hot air rising up your legs, up your stomach, and into your lungs.
Relax each muscle as the hot air passes through it.
Breathe out slowly, moving the air back down your body and out through the holes in your feet.
As you can see, there are many different types of breathing exercises you can try. It’s a good idea to work with a breathing coach to determine which exercise will better help you meet your wellness goals. Work with an online breathing coach by booking an appointment at Heally.
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