Did you know that our body’s most fundamental response, breathing, serves more purposes than providing oxygen? Breathing exercises have been used for centuries to help people focus and relax. By learning to master various breathing techniques you can greatly improve your health. These exercises can help to strengthen your lungs, rid your body of chemical toxins, relieve stress, and even help you to concentrate. In addition to all this, unlike medications, this option is completely free, is easy to master, and can be done pretty much anywhere at any time. Learn and apply these strategies and you’ll be breathing away your problems in no time.
At the top of the list is deep breathing. It is one of the most popular breathing exercises that is taught, and is common place by itself and also in activities such as yoga. Deep breathing involves you firstly sitting in a comfortable upright position, and then placing your hands on your chest and stomach, from here you take long and large breaths. It is important that you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, the whole time ‘breathing from your belly’, this means on the intake your chest should mostly be unaffected and your stomach should puff up. I recommend a 4:6:8 second cycle for intake, hold, and exhalation, do 4-8 breaths three or four times daily.
The second exercise on my list is a bit more complex and is a good step forward after you feel you have mastered deep breathing: It is breathing and visualization. Incorporating visualization makes your breathing exercise a bit less ‘portable’ and is probably best tried using a 5 minute window in the morning, preferably before you start your day. The process works around the same principal as deep breathing but instead of focusing on your breath you will start to paint a mental picture of a serene place. This place is whatever you would feel completely relaxed in. It can be a tropical rain forest, a sandy beach, or even a grassy field. From inside your world you should picture as many sensory details as possible, what you feel, what you smell, what you can hear should all be incorporated. Don’t worry if you fall asleep as this is usual for beginners, and is also why I recommend it as an at home exercise. This is an advanced form of stress relief and if done correctly should have you feeling more focused, relaxed, and energized than before.
My final recommendation is the most difficult of all and is also the most time consuming of the techniques so far. I highly recommend you attempt this one after a few weeks of practice on the others. This is a movement exercise incorporated with breathing. Yoga is the most common and well know. Yoga is by far the best breathing-movement exercise to begin with and all you need is a mat and some comfy clothes. Not only does yoga help to relieve stress, it also builds a healthy body by helping increase your flexibility and raises your awareness of each body part. Yoga can also be a good way to make new friends and socialize if you go to a class. While movement in yoga is the main premise your breathing is the most important, by controlling your breathing you relax the body’s muscles, this makes it easier for you to bend, stretch and focus. You can find yoga classes at most local gyms and there are a number of DVDs available online. Tai-Chi and Hatha are also exercises incorporated with breathing but are much more rigorous and I recommend these only if you are up for a real sweat.
If you dig deeper you’ll find that there is a wealth of other breathing exercises, but the ones I have listed are the main ones and I recommend that you try them first. Before you leave though, here are a couple pointers to maximize your breathing exercises.
1: Always inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
2: Try to perform these in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
3: Stay consistent, this may mean penciling a permanent spot in your day for your breathing, 5-10 minutes is a good start. The rewards are worth it.
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