You don’t always have to go to the spa or get a massage to relax! Relaxation can be achieved in a number of ways for much less hassle. In fact, you can calm yourself down and start on a natural path to relaxation just by breathing better.
Breathe to relax
Breathing techniques have been around for ages. Pregnant women learn to breathe a certain way to handle labor and keep calm during childbirth. Most forms of yoga focus on the breath and how to coordinate it with the various poses and movements of the body to achieve balance and total body restoration. Maximizing your breath during cardio exercise is also very important in order to keep your body on a steady pace and avoid getting winded.
Taking a deep breath sends a signal to the brain that it’s time for the body to lower the blood pressure and heart rate. Breathing exercises are easy to learn and are a good way to reduce stress and tension. There are no tools needed, no spa or massage parlor necessary, and you can do them wherever you and whenever they are needed. A good first step is to become more aware of how you are breathing by focusing on different ways you can modify and control your breathing behavior. Here are a few ideas to help you do this.
Bumble Bee Breath
One of the most popular breathing technique is the Bumble Bee Breath. This technique will allow you to relax and focus on the way you’re breathing while covering your ears with your thumbs and your eyes with your fingers. Breathe out slowly and make a humming sound while keeping your mouth lightly closed, teeth slightly apart, and jaw relaxed. This can be repeated several times while keeping the breaths long and smooth. Enjoy the peace this pattern of meditative breathing can render.
Is your mind racing and keeping you from getting to sleep? Try Sama Vritti or ‘equal breathing’ at night before bed to help you sleep easy. This type of breathing includes breathing in and out through the nose for equal counts. Breathing in for four to six seconds and then out through the nose for that same amount increases the resistance and calms the nervous system. Increasing the count as you get more advanced will only increase the effects.
Abdominal breathing techniques, while a bit more difficult to master, are quite effective when trying to gear up for a big event or exam. Putting one hand on your belly or abdomen and the other on your chest you can feel your diaphragm increasing as you breathe in through your nose. This technique might take some getting used to as most people expand their chest during the inhale.
Altering Nostril Method
While some breathing is for calming and relaxation, there is also breathing to wake you up and get energized. The Nadi Shodhana, or alternating nostril method, is like a cup of coffee as its best in the morning when you are trying to clear your channels and focus. It brings balance to the right and left sides of your brain. This technique requires you to breathe in through one nostril while holding your finger over the other nostril and then alternating to exhale out of the opposite nostril. Continue the pattern for several rotations to achieve more focus and become energized for the day.
There are always those mornings when even a cup of coffee is not going to get it done. Perhaps you need an ‘espresso strength’ type of method to get you ready for the day. The Kapalabhadi, or skull shining breath technique, is a bit more advanced as it requires more powerful contractions from the abdomen. It starts with a slow, long inhale (through the nose) followed by quick and powerful exhale contracted from the belly. Graduate from this pace to quicker inhales and exhales of one to two seconds for a total of ten seconds. This vigorous abdominal-intensive technique will wake up the body and the brain.
Breathing techniques can be so useful and are so convenient to practice whether you’re in your house, in a hotel on travel, or about to board a plane.Wherever you are and whatever kind of relaxation or stress relief you need these methods can be extremely beneficial. The more you practice them, the easier they will become and the more convenient it will be to reap the ultimate benefits.
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