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5 Breathing Techniques for Instant Stress Relief!
In our modern day lifestyle we often hear of the importance of a balanced diet or making sure we get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day but what we don't often hear about is the importance of breathing. Correct breathing, or lack there of, can have a huge impact on your health and general stress levels.
Yoga is thought to have originated in ancient India around the 5th and 6th century BCE. It has long since been used by both Hindus and Buddhist for its spiritual, physical and mental benefits. In the late 19th century yoga gurus introduced yogic practice to the West and by the 1980's yoga had become widely popular as a means of physical exercise. In Indian tradition however, yoga is more than just a physical exercise. It is practiced to connect the mind, body and spirit and to create a deeper sense of self, among other things.
Often, when we think of meditation we picture monks in long orange robes, sitting perfectly still and cross legged in a temple for hours at a time, maybe even days. This stereotypical imagery tends to in some way, put us off meditation. We seem to think that it's something only for well versed yogi's and the enlightened. After all who has the time in our busy schedules to be sitting for that long, let alone the patience? I'm here to tell you all that it doesn't have to be like that! The breathing techniques that follow are designed to ease your mind and body into a total state of relaxation and can be practiced on their own or preceeding your meditation.
There are several different aspects of yoga including meditation and asanas (poses) but the one I will focus on in this article is the practice of Pranyama's. Prana meaning breath and ayama meaning lengthening. For the past three thousand years, yogis have prepared the mind for meditation using deep and slow breathing.
If you've tried meditation and cant seem to get that busy mind to be quiet then I suggest trying these five very easy, very quick breathing exercises that will get you into a calm and serene state. These techniques can be practiced before a meditation session or as stand alone exersises to relieve stress. In my personal experience I've found them most effective practiced one or two at a time.
What you will need...
- A chair to sit on or a cushion. Whichever you prefer.
- A yoga mat or blanket.
- An open mind :)
Nadi-Sodhana (Purification of the Nerve Currents).
This first exercise is used to regulate the breath. By deepening and lengthening it, your release tension from the Nadis (nerves) and calming the mind.
- Sit comfortably in cross legged position or in a chair.
- Place your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows.
- Place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger and little finger on your left nostril.
- Gently press your right nostril to close it.
- Inhale deeply and slowly through the left nostril until the lungs are full.
- Then pressing the left nostril closed, exhale through the right.
- Now reverse, inhale through the right nostril and exhale through the left in the same manner.
- Repeat for five rounds.
Ujjaya (Victorious Breath).
Ujjaya is the second best breathing technique for stress relief. The term Ujjaya means mastery (jaya) in raising the energy levels (ud). It can help to strengthen the nervous and digestive systems and is excellent at quietening the mind.
- Sit comfortably.
- Contract the glottis (muscle around the windpipe). You will know if you have done this correctly by hearing a hissing noise when you inhale.
- Inhale slowly and deeply.
- While keeping the glottis contracted throughout, exhale slowly.
- Do this six times inhaling and exhaling.
This one may feel strange at first but becomes very easy with practice.
Shitali (Cooling Breath).
These next two exercises both have a cooling, calming effect on the body. They can be really helpful when performed on a hot day or after exercising to regulate body temperature.
- Curl up the sides of your tongue, letting the tip stick out slightly.
- Inhale deeply through the hole, concentrating on the coolness of the breath.
- Close your mouth, pulling the tongue in.
- Exhale though the nose.
- Repeat six times.
- Lift the tip of the tongue and fold it inwards so it presses against the roof/palate of your mouth.
- Keep your mouth slightly open and inhale, allowing the cool breath to rush in around the sides of your tongue.
- Close the mouth, putting your tongue flat again.
- Do this six times.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose).
I bet you're feeling pretty sleepy by this point and so to end the exercise I invite you to relax in Shavasana for a minute or two. While in Shavasana concentrate on your breathing, deeply inhaling through the nose, filling your lungs and exhaling fully and slowly through the nose.
- Lie down on your back. Legs slightly apart, arms to your sides with palms facing upwards.
- If you wish, place a hand on your diaphragm so you can feel it rise and fall with your breath.
- Close your eyes.
- Relax the face.
- Begin to concentrate on your breath.
- Starting at your head, with each breath relax further, feeling your body against the floor.
- Use this method until you reach your toes.
- Now let your mind detach for a minute before bringing your attention back to your body.
- Start to wiggle your hands and feet slowly waking them up.
- When you are ready begin to sit up.... Slowly.
I hope you enjoyed this breathing session and are feeling much more relaxed! You can save this article and come back to it time and time again or whenever you feel like a breather!