There are lots of different breathing exercises out there, maybe even too many to know and master them all. But today we are going to have a look at the ones I am familiar with.
First of all, I recommend you to get in a comfortable position. Depending on where you are at the moment when you need this exercise, this can mean, sitting, lying down or even standing up. The important part, however, is, that if in any way possible, you try to keep a straight back to make it easy for you to breathe properly.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Are you taking calm, deep breath or are you taking hasty short breath?
Count your breaths
By starting to focus on your breathing and starting to count each and every breath you take, you will automatically start to breathe more slowly.
When you inhale, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth right behind your teeth.
Then breathe through your nose as you normally do. Count backward from five to zero.
When exhaling, let the air escape through your mouth and count back up to eight.
Once done, repeat.
This exercise will help you to empty your lungs and relax more with every breath you take.
There is another slight variation to this method; it is called the "4-7-8 breathing".
When practicing the 4-7-8, you inhale, which should last for about four seconds, then you should wait for about seven seconds, and then exhale, which again should take you about eight seconds. This method has the benefit of allowing you to pause between each breath you take, which is another way to help your body and mind to calm down.
You might want to try out both versions of this technique and settle for whichever one suits you best. Counting every breath you take, assists you in keeping a steady pace, as well as ensuring that your mind stops worrying and racing off as your mind will be occupied with keeping count.
Pursed lip breathing
The basic idea of this exercise is to breathe out double the amount of breaths you inhale. It helps release air that is trapped in the lungs and decreases the number of breaths you take while extending exhalation.
With relaxed shoulders, take a normal breath lasting for about two seconds. Then purse your lips, the same way as you would when trying to whistle. Continue by exhaling for about four seconds. Keep doing this a few times until feeling better.
Abdominal Breathing Technique
Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Start by inhaling, taking a deep breath in through your nose. The goal here is not for your chest but your belly to rise and absorb the air in order to create a stretch in your lungs. Try to manage between six to ten slow and deep breaths per minute, and try to focus on this exercise for about 10 minutes to really calm you down.
Progressive muscle relaxation
This is a slightly more complex breathing technique as it also includes tensing certain muscles or muscle groups. It requires a little practice when not being stressed before being able to apply it in a stressful situation. Since I believe it is a very helpful method, but it is crucial to be practiced correctly, I dedicated a complete blog-post to progressive muscle relaxation. If you haven’ t read it already I highly recommend you to do so. Just open this link "A quick guide on how to get started with progressive muscle relaxation" in a new tab, and continue reading after finishing with this blog post.
Visualize blowing up the balloon
Imagine inflating a balloon. As always start by getting into a comfortable position. Continue by closing your eyes. Then start to breathe in through your nose slowly and out through your mouth. While inhaling, imagine that your abdomen would be inflating with air like a balloon. When you exhale, imagine the air escaping the balloon slowly. It is important that you know, that you do not have to force the air out. Simply imagine it escaping on its own at its own pace. You may want to imagine the balloon being in your favorite color. You may want to imagine it floating higher and higher with each breath you are taking. Especially children tend to prefer this exercise from the other ones I introduced to you so far.
Another nice breathing exercise to calm down children is:
Imagine to blow out birthday candles
Did you notice your, or any child being extremely nervous or stressed? Would you like to help them calm down quickly? Ask them to imagine they would be blowing out birthday cake candles. Tell the child to take a deep breath in and then push the breath to blow off the candles: the more stress they feel, the more birthday candles they should imagine to blow out and tell them to remember that sometimes not all candles on a cake turn of with one huge breath. Sometimes you need to blow the candles a few times to get them all.
By the way, a little off topic, since it is not a breathing technique, but a great way to help children calm down, is to help them shift their focus. Do you remember the game “I see something you are not seeing, and that is..blue..(for example)”? If you manage to get them engaged in this game instead, they will calm down seemingly forgetting what they were worried or stressed about.
The modified version of a Lion's breath
Imagine you would be a lion.
Inhale through your nose. Fill your belly all the way up with air until you can not take any further air in. Open your mouth as wide as possible. Now breath out like a “lion”, with a strong lion-like "Ahh" sound. Smile and repeat until you feel all the tension has gone.
Visualize releasing your stress
In this technique, as you inhale, you imagine all the stress in your body, making its way from your extremities to your chest. Then, as you exhale, imagine that the stress is leaving your body through your breath and disappearing right in front of you. Slowly repeat the process until you feel your stress begin to become less intense and finally vanish.
Shoulder roll breathing
Take a deep breath in through your nose and pull your shoulders up to your ears as you inhale. Exhale through your mouth while letting go of your “pulled up” shoulders. Repeat this exercise slowly until you feel completely calm and relaxed again.
Proper deep breathing
Sometimes all you need are a few proper deep breaths. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and take in as much air as you can. Then release it, empty your lungs, don’t hold air in your lungs after exhaling. Repeat this exercise to release the tension in your back, your shoulders, and anywhere else it may be.
As you slowly breathe in through your nose, raise your arms as high as you can and bring your palms together high over the top of your head. Imagine yourself being as tall as a mountain. When exhaling through your mouth also change the position of your arms and hands, bring your palms together in front of your chest. Repeat this exercise until feeling relaxed again.
Breath through your nose
While inhaling, place your finger over your right nostril and only breathe through your left nostril. On the exhale, switch nostrils and only breathe through your right nostril. The pace is up to you. Whichever pace is comfortable for you is the right pace for this exercise.
Try out at least a few of the here introduced breathing exercise to find the one that suits you best. I recommend practicing it a few times. That way when being in a stressful situation you are already comfortable with your chosen breathing technique and are able to apply and put it into action easily.
Calm down your life. Be more relaxed. Control your stress. Do not let it affect you. Be in love with life.
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