If you’ve been feeling a lot of stress lately, you certainly are not alone. You don’t need to be told just how many stressors have been added to your life this year, beyond the usual daily grind. The question is- what can be done about it? The answer may be a lot more simple than you realize. Taking just a few moments each day to practice simple deep breathing exercises can decrease the stress you are feeling, as well as relax your mind and body. This in turn helps you fall asleep easier and sleep better each night.
Knowing a few breathing techniques is important for your overall well being. One of the top benefits of learning and regularly practicing deep breathing includes improving anxiety. Deep breathing slows down your heart rate, allows the body to take in more oxygen, and ultimately signals the brain to wind down. All of that oxygen gets into your brain and says “Relax! It’s okay!” With this in mind, let’s discuss how to actually do this type of gentle breathing. You have several options in deep breathing techniques, also known as “pranayamas”. These are:
Following a simple deep breathing regime of “6-6-12” can guarantee better sleep, according to experts. This means you inhale, hold, and exhale, then repeat for a couple of rounds. Inhale for six seconds, hold for six seconds, and exhale for 12 seconds. Beginners can use 4-7-8 technique in a similar manner for similar results. Taking these slow, deep, long breaths can signal your mind to detoxify and return to a sense of calm, which will then relax you and help you sleep better.
Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
This type of deep breathing involves using your breath to make a sound like a bumble bee. The vibration created from this pranayama will stabilize your mind, relieve frustration, and alleviate the stress you are feeling. Simply sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Place your index fingers on the cartilage covering your ear canal. Slowly inhale through your nose until your lungs are full. As you exhale, make a steady and smooth humming sound. Repeat this again for ten breaths.
You want to be breathing from your abdomen, not your chest. Abdominal breathing helps you to gain control of your breathing, correct any gasping, and increase your oxygen intake. This is especially helpful when your anxiety is high, like right before a big meeting or during an argument. If practiced regularly, abdominal breathing will deepen your natural breathing patterns so you feel stress less often.
Learning how to do it is easy! Once you are in a comfortable posture, inhale slowly and deeply, allowing your abdomen to engage fully. Try to breathe so slowly that little to no sound can be heard. Try to concentrate and actually feel the air reaching to the bottom of your lungs. When your abdomen can expand no longer, start to expand our chest outward and upward. When the ribs have fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of your lungs and up to the base of your neck. Keep the rhythm of your breath slow and steady. Repeat this for five rounds or until you feel comfortable again.
Chandra Bhedana Pranayama (Moon Breath)
For centuries, Chandra Bhedana has been known to calm the mind, improve concentration, and relieve feelings of stress. This pranayama is for channeling and cooling energies of your body and mind. It involves breathing from the left to the right nostril, inhaling in ida (moon energy) and exhaling out pingala (sun energy).
To get started, sit comfortably with your head and spine upright. Relax your body and close your eyes. Position your right hand so your index and middle finger are between your eyebrows and your elbow is lifted. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril slowly, deeply, and without strain. Once you stop inhaling, close your left nostril with your right ring finger and release the pressure of your thumb on your right nostril. Exhale from your right nostril slowly and steadily until your lungs are empty. Both the inhalation and exhalation should be equal. Do this for at least five rounds.
Mindful Breathing in Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Start out by lying in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Then simply observe your breath, without trying to change it. Notice whether your chest or belly rises, and whether you can feel the breath traveling through your nose and throat, and whether your breathing is slow and steady or quick and hectic. Next, balance your energy with the alternate-nostril breathing described above. You should immediately feel more relaxed, clear-headed, calm, and invigorated.
A night of good sleep is essential to heal the mind and body after a long day in an even longer year. In order to sleep, you need to calm down! The truth is that any and all of these breathing exercises will help, because the key is to concentrate on your breath and get more oxygen to your brain. All of these options will achieve this, so go ahead and give them all a try and choose your favorite or favorites.