Why is breath work important?
Breath work can help us relax, lower our blood pressure, & help boost the immune system by lowering our stress.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Check out what Deepak Chopra has to say about the practice of Breath Work.
Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School also has information about the importance of breath work – check it out too.
Warning!!! If you feel lightheaded at any time stop & breathe normally. Though these breathing exercises are generally safe, if you have any health problems check with your physician before giving any of these breathing techniques a try.
Abdominal/Belly/Diaphragmatic Breathing –
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Place one hand on your chest & the other hand on your belly, just below your rib cage.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose & feel the air move down & your abdomen rises.
- Breathe out through your mouth. Let your belly relax.
Don’t force the breath in or out. Breathe in & out smoothly. Start with doing this 3 times. Eventually, you can work up to 5 – 10 minutes.
You can do this several times a day for short periods.
Box Breathing – a powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique to return breathing to its normal rhythm. May help to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus.
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns.
Sistali – Cooling Breath – builds breath awareness, is said to calm hunger & thirst. As well as cooling the body, it adds moisture to the system.
- Sit in a comfortably.
- Close your eyes, practice diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes.
- Open you mouth & for an “O” with your lips.
- Stick out your tongue & curl it into a “U” shape.
- Inhale deeply across the tongue, into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
- Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as your abdomen & lower ribs expand.
- Draw your tongue back in & close your mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.
Continue sistali for 2 – 3 minutes. Then return to diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes & repeat cooling breath for another 2 – 3 minutes. You can gradually work up to 10 minutes.
Bellows Breathing – boosts your energy, eliminates morning doldrums, strengthens your immune system. This is not a relaxation practice – it will invigorate you. Don’t do at bedtime as it could cause insomnia.
- Sit comfortably.
- Take a few deep, diaphragmatic breaths through your nostrils.
- When ready to begin, exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles quickly & forcefully.
- Immediately follow the exhale with a quick diaphragmatic inhale of equal force, letting the abdominal muscles relax.
There is a challenge to this breathing technique. You want to coordinate the action of the diaphragm & abdominal muscles, so the air is moving quickly in & out of the lungs. As the abdominal muscles relax at the end of exhalation, the diaphragm contracts to begin inhalation. After your peak inhalation the abdominal muscles immediately contract.
This exercise takes practice. I find it to be a good abdominal workout. You will have noise as you breathe in & out through your nostrils. Goal: make inhale & exhale equal.
Heart Focus Breathing – a useful technique that can be used before, during, or after stressful situation. Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area & breathing a bit more deeply than normal. You can practice this anywhere. At the beginning you might want to start by:
- Sitting comfortably.
- Direct your attention to the heart area & breathe a little more deeply than normal.
- As you breathe in imagine you are doing so through your heart.
- As you breathe out, imagine you do so through your heart.
(In the beginning, placing your hand over your heart as you breathe can help you direct your focus to your heart.)
Breathe in about 5-6 seconds & breathe out 5-6 seconds, or at a rate that is comfortable for you.