HJ: Of the many tools available to us to relax and stay centered, learning to control our mental, emotional and physical states through our breath is perhaps the most powerful and profound of these methods. The effects that breath work have had in my life are nothing short of transformative. Whenever I need to ‘drop-in’ and get centered, I switch my focus to my breathing and begin to do so consciously. Shifting our awareness to our breath causes us to snap out of dwelling on any time in the future or the past (a big source of anxiety, stress and tension) and get present in the ‘now’ moment. Being present in the moment usually dissipates most anxiety, stress and tension fairly rapidly.
Furthermore, these breathing exercises serve to balance our brain hemispheres, which promotes relaxation, concentration and focus, and nourish our body with rich oxygen, which feeds our cells and soothes our nervous system. Flooding our body with oxygen tends to produce states of happiness and feelings of wellbeing, which also counteracts stress and anxiety. Most of the breathing techniques presented in this article can be used anywhere at any time (or modified slightly to do so) and are powerful tools to add to your arsenal of relaxation techniques.
By Becky Striepe | Care 2
Whether it’s about work, money, relationships, or something else entirely, we all get stressed out sometimes. Not only is being stressed out totally un-fun, it’s bad for our bodies. When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones linked to health problems from insomnia and memory problems to obesity and heart disease.
We also tend to make bad choices when we’re stressed. When your body is in that “fight or flight” mode, we tend to either withdraw or lash out, and neither of these is healthy for our bodies or our relationships. Some people deal with stress by checking out: watching too much TV, eating junk food, smoking, or drinking. Others cope by becoming more on-edge. You might snap at your partner or fire off an angry email to a coworker without thinking about the consequences. For many people, we choose a little from column A and a little from column B. These unhealthy responses can compound our stresses, too.
You’ve probably heard the old “count to 10″ adage when it comes to stress, and this really isn’t that far off. Taking even a few minutes to step back and care for yourself can help you deal with stress in a more healthy way. Next time you feel yourself getting stressed out, get proactive! Remove yourself from the stressful situation as soon as you can – even if that means just excusing yourself to the restroom. Give your body and your brain some time to regroup
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is an ancient technique, and you can get the basics in the video above. Basically, the idea is to cycle the breath to help calm your mind and body. By purposefully breathing through first one side of the nose and then the other, you help stimulate both the left and right brain.
It requires quite a bit of concentration, which can soothe your nerves, as you focus on the breath rather than what’s bothering you.
2. 3 Step Breath
The 3 step breath is one of my favorite exercises. The pauses let you examine the space in between your breaths – a space that’s calm, clear, and empty. When you hold your breath, you can also feel stress building in your body, and when you allow yourself to breathe again, you feel such a release. That contrast helps your body relax.
The video above recommends doing this exercise on the floor, but if you’re stuck at the office or somewhere else that laying down isn’t an option, just sitting in a chair will work fine. Just sit in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor.
3. Breath Counting
When you’re having a really hard time getting focused, breath counting is the simplest way to find your center and melt stress away. Basically, it is what it says it is: you count your deep inhalations and exhalations. The trick is, you only count up to 10, and you don’t worry about how many rounds of 10 you’ve done. Just breathe until you start to feel more at ease and relaxed. You can either count an inhalation and exhalation as one, or count each inhalation and each exhalation. The count isn’t what matters. Counting just helps you stay focused on your breathing.
During all of these breathing exercises, don’t beat yourself up for noticing sounds, smells, thoughts, or any other distractions. Instead, just gently rein yourself back in when you notice that your mind is wandering. It’s not about “clearing your head.” It’s about recognizing those distractions and re-focusing yourself without judgement.