Breathing Techniques to Combat Stress

By Kartikeya Rokde Jul 26, 2020

“Stress management” has become so cliché that it almost feels banal talking about it. Yet, here we all are discussing the power of breathing right. After all, there are several studies to show how breathing exercises & techniques have been effective for anxiety, sleep, energy & weight loss. 

5 Breathing Exercises to Find your Zen

Breathing is the essence of yoga. So, the next time you switch on the Yoga mode on your fitness band, consider practising these 

1. Deep Breathing

Ever noticed that when you are anxious you tend to take rapid, shallow breaths? A relaxed state of the mind can be achieved with deep, even breaths. In yoga, this breathing technique is referred to as Pranayama. 

Conversely, shallow breathing is known to upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. This, in turn, leads to a host of conditions including but not limited to an increase in heart rate, muscle tension and the like. These can be reversed by deep breathing!

Here’s how:

  • Start the process with thoroughly exhaling air.
  • As you start the inhale-exhale process, spend more time exhaling than inhaling. If you inhale for four seconds, for example, exhale for six.
  • Keep at it for 5 minutes. 

    2. Abdominal Breathing

    Ever experienced heart-pounding moments leading to a major exam or making an important presentation? Abdominal breathing exercises help soothe nerves and also draw focus. 

    Here’s how:

    • Keep one hand on your chest and the other on your belly
    • Take a deep breath and allowing the diaphragm to inflate. 
    • Slowly exhale
    • Take 6-10 breaths a minute 
    • Practice this for 10 minutes every day and see the long-term impact.
      Breathing Techniques to Combat Stress
      Breathing exercises have been effective for anxiety, sleep, energy & weight loss.

      3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

      This technique can work well just about anywhere. You could be in the office or even commuting to work. This can also double as a “cool down” routine after an intense workout session. 

      Here’s how:

      • Focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group starting with your toes and moving progressively up.
      • During each cycle, inhale through your nose, hold to the count of 5 while tensing your muscles and then exhale through your mouth as you release those muscles. Do it for all the muscle groups and notice the difference.

        4. Alternate Nostril Breathing

        If finding your zone and concentration is your biggest bane, then this exercise will help you clear your thoughts and bring things in perspective. In yoga, this is called Nadi Shodhan pranayama. Not only is it believed to reduces stress and anxiety, it also helps calm and rejuvenate the nervous system. 

        Here’s how:

        • Sit in a comfortable pose. Hold out your dominant hand and press the tips of your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb extended. 
        • Bring your hand in front of your face and press your thumb on the outside of one nostril.
        • Inhale through the open nostril. Now release your thumb, press your ring finger on the outside of the other nostril, and exhale.
        • Continue this for 2 minutes and then switch sides

          5. Breathing Mantra 4-7-8

          Is anxiety taking a toll on your sleep? Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help you battle insomnia. 

          • Lie down in a comfortable position. Press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, slightly open your mouth and exhale.
          • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath for 7 counts. Now exhale to the count of 8.
          • Repeat this for 4-8 cycles.

            6. Breath Focus

            This, in fact, is a great meditative technique that simply asks you to focus on the source of life, your breath.

            • Sit in a comfortable position. Take a slow, deep breath through your nose.
            • Notice your upper body expanding.
            • Exhale comfortably all the time focusing on your breath.
            • Do this for several minutes, paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly.
            • Each time you exhale you could imagine all the negative thoughts and energy washing out of your system.
            • Every time you get distracted, do not worry. Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
            • Practice this daily for 20 minutes. 

            The phrase “breath of life” got a whole new meaning with these breathing exercises. Go ahead and practice them regularly. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, remember? Here’s to a calmer, happier you!

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