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BREATHING TECHNIQUES

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While stress, frustration, and other daily setbacks will always be there, the good news is, so will our breath! Don’t wait until fight or flight kicks in before minding your breath. Controlled breathing not only keeps the mind and body functioning at their best, it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation and help us de-stress.

From the confines of a bed, a desk or anyplace where negativity finds its way, consider these breathing techniques to help keep calm and carry on:

 

Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”

How it’s done: Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath.

1.To start, inhale for a count of four

2.Then exhale for a count of four — all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Got the basic pranayama down? More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.

 

When it works best: Anytime, anyplace — but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed. “Similar to counting sheep, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, this breath can help take your mind off the racing thoughts, or whatever might be distracting you from sleep.”

Level of difficulty: Beginner

 

Abdominal Breathing Technique

How it’s done:

  1. With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs.
  2. The goal: Six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer.

 

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event. But keep in mind, “Those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked how hard it is to control the breath.”

Level of difficulty: Beginner

 

Nadi Shodhana (nah-dee show-DAH-nah) or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain.

  1. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  2. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the middle finger, then exhale through the right nostril.
  3. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

 

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi shodhana is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake. “It’s almost like a cup of coffee,” Pacheco says.

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

 

Kapalabhati (Kah-pah-lah-Bah-tee) or “Skull Shining Breath”

How it’s done: Ready to brighten up your day from the inside out?

  1. This one begins with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly.
  2. Once comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.

 

When it works best: When it’s time to wake up, warm up or start looking on the brighter side of things. “It’s pretty abdominal-intensive,” Pacheco says, “but it will warm up the body, shake off stale energy and wake up the brain.” If alternate nostril breathing is like coffee, consider this a shot of espresso, she says.

Level of difficulty: Advanced

 

Morning breathing

How it’s done: 

  1. From a standing position, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.
  2. As you inhale slowly and deeply, return to a standing position by rolling up slowing, lifting your head last.
  3. Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this standing position.
  4. Exhale slowly as you return to the original position.

 

When it works best: Try morning breathing when you first get up in the morning to relieve muscle stiffness and clear clogged breathing passages. Then use it throughout the day to relieve back tension.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

 

Clearing your head

How it’s done:

  1. Begin with several very slow neck rolls. With your chin on your chest, or close to it, roll your head up and to the right, slowly inhaling until your head is leaning back and your chin is pointing toward the sky. If you have arthritis of the neck (cervical spine) or other diseases of the spine, do not point your chin to the sky.
  2. Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this position.
  3. As you roll your head down the way you went up, slowly exhale until your chin is back on your chest.
  4. Repeat, this time rolling your head to the left.

 

When it works best: Clearing your head is good for relieving neck tension or for when you have too much on your mind.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

 

The Stimulating Breath or The Bellows Breath

How it’s done: The Stimulating Breath is adapted from yogic breathing techniques. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.

  1. Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.
  2. Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.
  3. Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.

 

When it works best: If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

Note: Some dizziness may be experienced when first trying breathing exercises, however if at any time you feel uncomfortable, tone down the exercise or stop altogether.

 

Sources: http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/6-breathing-exercises-to-relax-in-10-minutes-or-less/

http://www.foodmatters.com/article/can-breathing-exercises-really-change-your-health

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

 

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