Incorporating simple breathing exercises into your routine is a powerful antidote to stress.
Sustained, rhythmic breathing alkalizes your blood pH, which helps reduce carbon dioxide in your system. Breathwork also has an anti-inflammatory effect, improves muscle tone and elevates mood.
Here are a couple of exercises to try at home:
Box Breathing (4X4)
Assume a comfortable position, whether it’s standing, sitting or lying down, and consciously allow different sections of your body to relax.
Spend four or five minutes breathing on a four-second count. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, then exhale through the nose for four seconds. Continue for about four to five minutes. Try to breathe diaphragmatically by consciously using your muscles to pull down your diaphragm, which fills your lungs more efficiently.
Once you’re comfortable with this pattern, try moving to longer intervals of five or six seconds.
Find a place to sit or lie down comfortably. Remember to maintain good posture if seated or lie down if you’re trying to go to sleep.
Rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and maintain its position throughout the exercise. Exhaling past the tongue is easier for some people if they purse their lips.
These steps should all be carried out in the cycle of one breath:
- Let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
- Close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
When you inhale again, you initiate a new cycle of breath. Practice this pattern for four full breaths.
The held breath (for seven seconds) is the most critical part of this practice. It’s also recommended that you only practice 4-7-8 breathing for four breaths when you’re first starting out. You can gradually work your way up to eight full breaths. This can lead to a deep state of relaxation.