Have you been busy throughout the day, skipped sleep, and stressed? Luckily, there are many ways to regain your calm that don’t require expensive spa treatments.
One of the best methods of relaxation of the body is totally free. You only need your lungs, your breath and 10 minutes to yourself.
Breathing techniques are a safe and natural way to calm anxiety. Therefore, once you learn to do a breathing exercise you can practice it anywhere.
For example, with just three minutes of breathing exercises you can calm down and lower your anxiety levels, even ending a panic attack.
Unlike rapid breathing that increases anxiety about hyperventilation, controlled breathing, with a longer exhalation, can relax you.
Similarly, working with the rhythm of breathing to calm anxiety sends a message to the nervous system that allows us to reduce anxiety and relax the mind and body.
In the following article we will share some effective breathing exercises, which will help you relax and feel better in those moments of stress and anxiety.
What are breathing exercises?
Breathing exercises are specific breathing techniques, usually performed in a routine, to train the respiratory system. However, the main goal is to regulate the function of the respiratory center to achieve a state of relaxation and decrease anxiety and stress.
Breathing exercises are a great way to prevent and treat pain. According to a study published in PubMed, people who performed these exercises showed a reduction in chronic back and low back pain.
There are many types of breathing exercises, depending on the result you are looking for. Below you will learn some breathing exercises that you can practice anywhere.
1. Deep breath
Have you ever taken a deep breath before entering a job interview or before getting on a roller coaster? That is deep breathing.
Deep breathing is very effective in reducing stress. This is because our body sends a message to our brain to relax.
To practice deep breathing follow these steps:
- Get in a comfortable position, be it sitting, lying down or standing, with a straight spine.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Do this exercise between 3 and 5 times.
2. Belly breathing
Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is ideal for relaxing and lowering palpitations. It also helps to strengthen the diaphragm and improve breathing by slowing the rate of breathing, and helps to breathe with less effort.
To practice abdominal breathing follow these steps:
- Lie on your back on a flat surface, with your knees bent and your head supported.
- Place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly. This will allow you to feel the diaphragm move.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves against your hand. The hand that is on the chest should remain as still as possible.
- Squeeze your stomach muscles and perform this exercise 5-10 times.
3. Full breath
Like abdominal breathing, full breathing is used in yoga which involves filling the lungs using the entire respiratory system. It is a form of diaphragmatic breathing and is the most basic of yoga breathing exercises.
To practice full breathing follow these steps:
- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest and inhale deeply, as your shoulders relax and your belly pushes against your hand.
- The chest expands slowly and the hand on the chest will rise as the chest expands.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling. As you exhale, draw in your belly and slowly expel all the air from your lungs.
- Perform this exercise in 3 repetitions of 3 series. Between each series breathe normally.
4. Breathing alternated through the nostrils
According to a study published in Medicinal Science, alternate nostril breathing helps lower blood pressure. It is a technique that many cardiologists recommend to their patients.
Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breath control practice. This type of breathing can be done as part of a yoga or meditation practice.
To practice nostril breathing follow these steps:
- sit in a comfortable position
- Place your left hand on your left knee.
- Raise your right hand towards your nose.
- Exhale completely and then close your right nostril.
- Inhale through the left nostril, then close it with your fingers.
- Open your right nostril and exhale through this side.
- Inhale through the right nostril, and then close that nostril.
- Open your left nostril and exhale through the left side.
- This is a cycle. Continue for 5 minutes.
5. Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire consists of alternating short, explosive exhalations and long, passive inhalations.
Exhalations are generated by powerful contractions of the lower abdomen, which push air out of the lungs.
To practice Breath of Fire follow these steps:
- Close your eyes and relax your body.
- Inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the chest as slowly as possible.
- Forcefully exhale, contracting your abs.
- Continue up to 30 times per round.
6. Glowing Skull Breath
Kapalabhati is a traditional yogi internal cleansing technique that involves controlled abdominal breathing and can be used to relax the body and calm the mind. It comes from the Sanskrit kapala = skull, bhati = light.
To practice glowing skull breathing follow these steps:
- Similar to Breath of Fire, inhale through your nose as slowly as possible.
- It expels the breath with force, contracting the lower part of the abdominals.
- Repeat as many times as necessary.
7. Gradual relaxation
A study published inFrontiers in Human Neuroscienceargues that practicing gradual relaxation techniques, or slow breathing, improves brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt to new scenarios and learn new things).
In addition, it also showed that it promotes activity in the frontal lobe and that it is positive on a psychological level.
To practice this breathing technique follow these steps:
- Choose a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Breathe in through your nose, inhaling slowly as your chest expands.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds and release it slowly (possibly slower than inhalation) through your mouth.
- Repeat 3-10 times, as needed.
8. Breathing 4-7-8
This technique is probably the best known of all and is as simple as its name.
- Lie on your back and inhale through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold the air for seven seconds,
- Breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Repeat as many times as necessary.
9. Breathing to control anger
If something has made you angry and you think you are about to explode, better calm down, relax and take a few breaths before doing or saying something you might regret.
To practice this breathing technique, follow these steps:
- In a comfortable position, close your eyes and inhale through your nose, bringing your arms up to the sides of your ears.
- Hold the air for a few seconds,
- Exhale abruptly through your mouth, letting your arms fall to the sides of your body.
- Repeat as many times as necessary to calm the anger.
10. Breathing with guided imagery
Ideal for falling asleep, this breath is a classic of guided meditation. The ideal way to carry out this type of breathing is precisely, as the name says, with a guided visualization.
Therefore, we recommend that you search YouTube or a guided meditation App for a guided visualization and follow the steps indicated.
Benefits of doing breathing exercises
There are many benefits of doing breathing exercises, especially since a calm mind does not produce stress. And without stress there are many diseases and ailments that we can save ourselves.
Here are some of the benefits that breathing exercises have for you:
Help reduce stress and anxiety
Breathing exercises decrease stress and increase calm. When you’re stressed or anxious, your brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone.
Taking a deep breath slows your heart rate, gets more oxygen into your bloodstream, and signals your brain to relax.
Controlled breathing also increases endorphins, a feel-good chemical.
Improve the quality of sleep and rest
One of the reasons why many find it difficult to fall asleep is due to stress and nervousness. In fact, lowering your anxiety levels before trying to sleep can increase your chances of falling asleep and resting better throughout the night.
If you have trouble falling asleep and you wake up in the middle of the night feeling excited, a few minutes of relaxation before closing your eyes with the intention of sleeping may improve your nights.
Reduce hypertension problems
One of the biggest benefits of breathing techniques is that they lower blood pressure. As the muscles relax, this allows the blood vessels to dial, which improves circulation and reduces pressure.
Deep breathing also slows down and regulates the heart rate, which also helps reduce blood pressure.
They relieve headaches
Controlled breathing helps relieve pain in general. Controlled breathing triggers the release of endorphins, which not only help create a feeling of good humor and happiness, but also fight pain and inflammation that cause annoying headaches.
Control Asthma Attacks
Given the relationship between inflammation and asthma, the benefits of a breathing program are effective if well practiced as it can help improve lung capacity.
Help manage pain
Breathing exercises can help relieve pain. This is because deep breathing triggers the release of endorphins, which not only help create a sensation, but also fight pain.
Help control phobias
A study conducted by researchers at the Depression & Anxiety Journal suggests that people with blood phobias hyperventilate when having blood drawn, making them even more nervous.
Therefore, controlling your breathing can improve the symptoms of a phobia, since it helps us to relax.
Control sexual dysfunction problems
Breathing plays a fundamental role in orgasm. While it takes a certain amount of tension to experience an orgasm, relaxing your muscles provides apleasurableSensation.
Many people inadvertently hold their breath and tense their muscles to experience an orgasm.
Finally, breathing exercises that focus on the abdomen also improve sexual function by helping to oxygenate the blood, a key factor in arousal.
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.