Doesn’t it seem like navigating through the world of healthcare and self-care always seems to come at a cost? Supplements, nourishing organic produce, fitness classes, self-care appointments, it seems like very little of the great things you can do for your body and your health are free. But there is something that is always there for you and doesn’t cost a penny… your breath! We all know how important it is to breath right while exercising, but we often times lose sight of the fact that the way we breathe the rest of the time is just as important. Here are some simple tips and exercises for maximizing your breath to manage stress, calm nerves, energize your body, and experience amazing health benefits!
- Breath through your nose as much as possible. Breathing through the nose is much more energizing and oxygenating than breathing through the mouth. When you’re walking around, doing your thing, make an effort to breathe through your nose as much as possible, focusing on taking long, slow breaths. Inhaling and exhaling nasally takes much longer tan orally, which gives the oxygen more time to get into the bloodstream. This slower, deeper breath also has a remarkable effect on brain waves, which reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, and can even help with hunger and food cravings!
- For relaxation, try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This exercise is an amazing tranquilizer for the nervous system, and is a great tool for lowering stress levels, blood pressure, as well as improving sleep!
- First, place the tip of the tongue on the ridge just behind your your front teeth.
- Secondly, exhale completely through your mouth, totally emptying your lungs of air. Then, close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
- Keeping your mouth closed, hold the air in your lungs for a count of 7.
- Next, exhale slowly, for a count of 8, making a whooshing sound (as though you’re saying “shh”). Make sure you exhale out completely, so your lungs are completely empty of air, and your abdominal muscles are engaged. This is one cycle of 4-7-8 breath. Repeat this cycle 3 times for a total of 4 breaths, and you’re done! Try to complete this exercise twice a day for maximum results. Use it whenever you feel stressed, overworked, nervous, or when you’re dealing with insomnia.
- For an energizing boost, try Bellows Breath. This yogic breathing exercise is wonderful for when you’re tired, low on energy, feel your alertness slipping, or when you just need a late afternoon pick-me-up. It can be just as effective as a cup of coffee!
- Inhale and exhale very rapidly through your nose, with each breath being as quick as possible…like a bellows!
- Aim for about 3 in and out breath cycles per second, with inhalations and exhalations being equal in length.
- For the first few tries, complete the exercise for no more than 15 seconds. But feel free to increase the duration every time you do it, up to a minute in length maximum.
- Lastly, forget huffing and puffing while exercising.. Instead, try ujjayi breath! Heavy breathing during exercise puts the body into a highly stressed state of emergency, which is actually counter-productive to the benefits of physical activity. Maintaining a steady, deep breath takes the strain off the body, allowing us to do more without as much strain. Ujjayi breath is an ancient yogic breathing technique that was created to cleanse the mind and body, focus thinking, and cause a deep sense of calm and relaxation.
- To learn ujjayi breath, inhale deeply through the mouth. On the exhale, start to close the back of your throat to slightly constrict the passage of air, as if you are fogging up a pair of glasses. This should sound like an ocean wave.
- Once you are comfortable with this exhale, work on employing that same throat constriction on your inhalation. Focus on an even, slow inhalation and exhalation in this manner… kind of like Darth Vader.
- When you’re ready, close your month, and continue this style of breath exclusively through the nose.. That’s it! You are employing ujjayi breath. Try breathing this way when you are stretching, doing yoga, or other forms of light exercise. Eventually, try to breathe this while doing all forms of exercise. It definitely takes some getting used to, but focusing on this deep, slow, nasal breathe while the body is being physically stressed makes for a more effective workout that has much less negative impact on the body. For more information on the benefits of this style of breathe and its benefit for physical activity, check out John Douillard’s amazing book, Body, Mind, and Sport.
Breath is the most vital sources of our life, energy, and health, but, as it is an automatic function, it’s very easy to neglect in terms of conscious use. When we bring our attention to our breath, we gain access to an incredibly powerful and effective wellness tool that can aid us in so many different aspects of our health. Best of all, it’s a tool that is free, easy to use, and that we have access to 24 hours a day, regardless of where we are! Try some of the above techniques consistently for a few weeks, and you will notice dramatic results.. without spending a penny!