Try These Relaxing Breathing Techniques To Manage Stress

Relaxing Breathing Techniques To Manage Stress

If stress is messing with your health, channel the power of breathing to relax the body. Start with a simple equal breathing technique that uses counting to focus on breath. Progress to pranayama (yogic breathing), nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and kumbhaka pranayama (breath retention). Or learn a deep abdominal breathing method. If you prefer a more meditative experience, controlled breathing with imagery could be the technique for you.

Stress can wreak havoc on your system if left unchecked. It has been linked to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and even anxiety and depression. And while you may not be able to escape the stress of day-to-day living, some easy breathing techniques can help you relax and cope with it better. Control your breath and you can control so much more.

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Deep Breathing Balances Your Body And Kickstarts The Relaxation Response

When you are stressed your body’s fight or flight response kicks in, causing your breathing rate to increase and the pattern of breathing to change. Short and shallow breaths from breathing with the help of the shoulders instead of the diaphragm results in a disruption of the balance of gases in your body. This can worsen anxiety and heighten physical symptoms linked to stress. When you control your breathing, you quell these symptoms and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, restore the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood, bring down stress hormones in your blood, and cut lactic acid levels building in muscle tissue. You will then feel a sense of greater calm and more physical energy. Your immune system also functions better.

A simple answer to a stressful life? Focus on your breath and invoke what Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Medical School cardiologist, calls the “relaxation response.” You could employ a host of methods to breathe and relax your body – whether that’s through progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or yoga. People also find the focus on breath in tai chi, repetitive prayer, qi gong, and guided imagery can help spark this relaxation response. Done right, deep and controlled breathing can help you battle stress, bring your body into a place of calm and relaxation, and even circumvent a lot of health niggles, including something as simple as catching colds or other infections frequently. Here are some breathing techniques you should try.

Equal Breathing Technique Or Sama Vritti

This is a simple technique that you can begin with, where you learn to focus on your breath without too much effort. The evening out of the breath in this technique is known as “sama vritti” in pranayama, a form of controlled yogic breathing.

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Abdominal Breathing

When you breathe from your abdomen, you make a conscious shift from the characteristic shallow upper chest breathing typical of a stress response. Here’s how you do it:

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Controlled Breathing With Imagery

Do this technique lying down or seated. Keep your eyes closed throughout and try not to distract yourself with any thoughts.

Deep Muscle Relaxation

Set aside around 20 minutes for this practice which should stretch and relax different muscles. It helps release tension both physically and mentally. Avoid muscles that are injured and painful. Music may help heighten the benefits for some people. You will focus on one muscle group at a time, stretching them for a couple of seconds before releasing them and relaxing.

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In yoga, the controlling of your breath is known as pranayama. It is best learned under the guidance of a trained practitioner but can then be practiced independently. Some yoga breathing techniques are described next and help with stress relief.

Kumbhaka Pranayama Or Breath Retention

In this method, you will learn to practice breath retention either after you exhale or after you inhale. Start with equal breathing to counts of 6 if you can. As you inhale, hold for two counts. Now breathe normally twice or thrice before you do the next breath retention.

Nadi Shodhana Or Alternate Nostril Breathing

In nadi shodhana or anuloma viloma, your right hand is held in a position resembling a deer. You use your ring and pinky finger (joined together to almost be one single unit) to keep the left nostril closed and the right nostril is held closed by the thumb.

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Practice Deep Breathing Twice A Day For 10–20 minutes

Regardless of which breathing technique you choose, there are some ways to make the experience more beneficial. Keep these simple things in mind when you do your breathing exercises.

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