Did you ever notice your breath when you are anxious or relaxed? Next time take a moment to observe it and think about how you breathe whenever you feel anxious, stressed, relaxed, when you are walking outside in a park, or when you are in a hurry. Breathing exercises help you to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, relax your nervous system and calm the mind.
Better breathing is equal to better health. There are many scientific benefits of breathing. One of the best breathing exercises is Slow and Deep Breathing. When you slowly deep breathe regularly, it allows more oxygen to enter into your bloodstreams, thus sending a message to your brain to calm yourself down and relax the body. Breathing exercises also help to improve the function of your diaphragm and other muscles used for breathing.
Breathing exercises are a simple and efficient way to relax, reduce tension and stress. They are easy to learn. You don’t require any tools or equipment, and you can do it anytime and wherever you want (except for places where air quality is not good. For example near a chemical factory or dumping ground).
This article will focus on the following 4 simple beginner breathing exercises for anxiety, depression and relax your stressful mind. Try these and see for yourself which one suits you the best.
- Box Breathing
This exercise is either called Box Breathing or Square Breathing. This is the most simple and my favourite one. In this exercise, you have to imagine a box or a square just like the one shown in the image below.
- Firstly, sit in a comfortable position on the floor or on a mat with your back straight.
- Start from the bottom right corner.
- Slowly breathe in (keeping your mouth closed) for about 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for the same amount of time i.e. 4 seconds.
- Then slowly breathe out for 4 seconds.
- Now again hold your breath for the same amount of time.
- Start again with a new set. Do at least 4 to 5 sets at a time.
In the beginning, 4 seconds might be tough for some of you. But believe me, once you get a hang of it, you yourself will increase the time limit. This exercise will strengthen your lungs, and increases your breath-holding capacity which is an essential factor for swimmers.
- Pursed Lip Breathing Technique
Pursed lip breathing technique is used to slow down your breathing rate and helps move more air in and out of your lungs. Refer to the image below and follow along.
- Relax your neck and shoulders.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose (with mouth closed) for 2 counts. Just take a normal breath, don’t take a deep breath.
- As shown in the image above, purse your lips as if you were going to whistle or gently flicker the flame of a candle.
- Now breathe out slowly and gently with your pursed lips while counting to four.
This may help you to count yourself: Inhale (count one, two), Exhale (count one, two, three, four). With regular practice, this exercise will seem natural to you.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic Breathing is also called Belly Breathing or Abdomen Breathing. This type of breathing exercise helps to strengthen your diaphragm as the diaphragm is the main muscle you use while breathing.
- Lie down comfortably and sit with your back straight.
- Put one hand on your chest and another hand on your abdomen.
- Then slowly breathe in through your nose. Remember, while inhaling your abdomen should move out and your chest should remain in a still position.
- Now breathe out slowly through your pursed lips while pulling your abdomen in and keeping your chest as still as possible.
- Repeat the cycle 5-10 times. Take your time with each breath.
- Do notice how good you feel at the end of the exercise.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, in Sanskrit, is called Nadi Shodhan Pranayama. This is one of the best Pranayama exercises to make your mind calm, happy and peaceful, and also maintains the body temperature. Steps to do this:
- Sit down comfortable with back straight and shoulder relaxed. Place your left hand on the left knee in a way that your thumb and index finger gently touching each other while your palm is facing upwards. Close your eyes.
- Place tip of your index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between your eyebrows, ring figure and little figure on the left nostril, and thumb on the right nostril.
- Press your thumb on the right nostril so that your right nostril gets closed. Now exhale slowly through the left nostril.
- Now breathe in deeply(as much as you can) through the left nostril keeping your right nostril closed.
- Now hold the breath until you close the left nostril. Then open the right nostril and slowly exhale.
- Then inhale completely slowly through the right nostril(remember, while doing this keep your left nostril closed).
- Afterwards, hold your breath until you open your left nostril and close the right nostril. Now exhale slowly and completely through the left nostril.
- This completes one cycle. Do 9 to 10 cycles of this.
- Remember whenever you exhale, breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout the cycles. Take long, deep and smooth breathe without any discomfort. Don’t force the breathing and don’t breathe from the mouth.
- In case you are yawing during this exercise, make sure your exhalation is longer than inhalation.
- Practice this exercise on empty stomach or after 2-3 hours of a heavy meal.
Disclaimer: Everyone has a right to take care of themselves. Learn about your health condition and how to take care of it. Discuss it with experts. If you feel any discomfort while performing such exercises, do consult a doctor. Live happily, stay healthy.