When life has piled too much on your plate, it’s bound to affect your breathing. Since the breath is intimately connected with your emotions, you may notice that your breathing is irregular, too shallow, or too quick. Time for a tried and true Stress Busting Breathing Exercise.
Yoga practitioners learn many different types of breathing exercises, collectively called Pranayama. This particular technique from the ancient yoga tradition is a powerful stress-buster. It’s effective for quieting the mind and relaxing the body. As you practice this exercise over time, it gradually balances the activity of your entire nervous system.
Sit comfortably with your back straight. (You can also do this exercise while standing or lying down.) Eyes may be open or closed. Place the tip of your tongue on the ridge on the top of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth, where it will remain throughout the exercise. Allow your tongue to be relaxed. Silently count evenly and steadily, without pausing between each phase of the exercise. Before taking the first breath, empty your lungs of air.
1. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose as you count silently to FOUR.
2. Hold your breath as you count silently to SEVEN.
3. Exhale slowly, completely and audibly through your open mouth to a silent count of EIGHT. This is one complete round. You may find you naturally pause briefly without inhaling before repeating the second round. Let this pause extend as long as it feels comfortable. Repeat for a total of four rounds. Suggestions for use:
- The relative speed of your count is unimportant, but it should be regular, and you need to maintain the ratio of 4:7:8. If you have trouble holding your breath for seven counts, speed up the count. Over time, you should be able to slow the count, which is desirable.
- Practice two or more times per day, at night if you are unable to sleep, or whenever you are tense or upset.
- Do not use this exercise while driving or during activities that require concentration.
- If you wish, as you exhale you can visualize tension dissolving and draining from your body and mind.