We’re often told to do this to calm us down before rushing to make a judgement or losing our cool. But why do people say it and can deep breathing really help?
Rescue® has teamed up with Neil Shah from The Stress Management Society (website) to give you more information about the benefits of breathing exercises.
We asked Neil why breathing deeply is so important for dealing with daily stresses:
“Oxygen provides energy to all parts of the body. The rate at which we inhale and exhale is controlled by the respiratory center within the medulla oblongata in the brain. Interestingly this is also the part of the brain that instigates the stress response. The benefits of breathing correctly can lead to an upsurge in energy and relax your body and mind as you are getting more oxygen in. Even under normal circumstances, taking a full deep breath by itself is relaxing. However, most of us are used to ‘shallow breathing’; using only 25-30% of our lung capacity.”
Breathing exercises are one of the best relaxation techniques out there. There are calming breathing exercises for reducing pressure, and energizing techniques to enhance performance. Here are some of our favorite breathing techniques for you to try out at home:
1. Diaphragm breathing (what we call baby’s breath)
When babies are born they are not taught how to breathe, they just do what comes naturally. This breathing exercise brings awareness to your natural baby's breath.
- Sit or stand with your feet firmly flat on the floor
- Now imagine a triangle. The top corner of the triangle is at your belly button and the other two corners are on your hips. Inside that triangle there is a ball or a balloon.
- When you take a breath in, visualize your breath slowly inflating the ball or balloon. Once you have inhaled fully, hold for a few seconds and then release slowly, deflating the ball or balloon and pulling your navel in towards your spine
- Repeat this for a few minutes and become aware of any changes happening within your body or mind.
2. Resistance breathing (or alternate nostril breathing)
This is an ancient breathing technique designed to produce balance and optimum functioning in both sides of the brain.
- Place a finger under your nostrils and exhale through your nose. You may notice that one nostril is working harder than the other. This is normal and changes according to activity, swapping throughout the day.
- Close your right nostril using your right thumb.
- Inhale through your left nostril as slowly as you can.
- Once the inhalation is complete, without letting go of the right nostril, gently pinch the left nostril with your left ring finger and hold for a few seconds.
- Let go of your right nostril and exhale, slowly and fully.
- Swap over your fingers and repeat on the other side.
- Repeat this, alternating the left and right sides for a few cycles and notice any changes you become aware of.
3. Energizing breathing (what we call bellows breath)
This exercise is called ‘bellows breath’ as it mimics the working of bellows that were used historically to fan a fire. When practicing this breathing technique, be ready for an intense workout as it is the ultimate breathing exercise for energy.
- Sit up in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor
- Stretch your spine upwards, lengthen your neck and subtly bring your chin back and in, like a soldier standing to attention. This position will align your spine with the back of your head.
- Close your eyes and relax your stomach muscles.
- Now begin to breathe as forcefully as is comfortable through your nose, putting equal emphasis on the inhalation and exhalation. The pace should be about one second for inhalation and about the same for exhalation. You should feel your diaphragm expand and contract in conjunction with your breaths.
- Do this 10 times, then inhale completely and hold your breath for 1-5 seconds. Exhale fully to complete the round.
This completes round one so take a short break. Slowly work your way up to doing five rounds for maximum benefit.
If you like, here are 3 mindful meditation techniques and 5 relaxation techniques to try. Our 4 favorite mindfulness apps are here. Learn about stress here with 10 facts about stress you may not know. Check out our favorite calming essential oils.
If you’re having a hectic day, why not take some time out with Rescue Remedy® Dropper?