4 Quick Practices to Get Started with Breath Work
Breath work is a powerful way to release stress and anxiety, and to regulate your nervous system. Proper breathing allows your body to get the oxygen it needs to function. When breathing is shallow, short or irregular it can contribute to anxiety or panic attacks, fatigue and other symptoms of physical and emotional distress.
Here are four quick practices to help you get started with using breath work to experience more peace in your day to day life.
When you’re ready for practice take a seat, rolling back your shoulders and assuming a strong, upright posture. Take a deep inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth for a deep clearing breath. Close your eyes, and relax your body to prepare.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is a great way to keep anxiety and panic attacks at bay. This technique requires you to alternate between closing off and breathing through your left and right nostril, using your ring finger and thumb.Start by closing off your right nostril and inhale through your left. Cover your left nostril with your ring finger, exhaling and then inhaling through your right. Repeat for at least 10 rounds or until you experience relief.
Box breathing is a simple but effective breathing technique. You can practice this in silence or to your favorite meditation or calming music. Once you are comfortable and prepared for practice, start by inhaling deeply into your stomach, fully filling your lungs, for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Then slowly exhale all remaining air out of your lungs for a count of four. Hold your emptied exhale for a count of four, then repeat with a four count inhale. The more you practice, the longer your sessions can become. Repeat for five to ten cycles and work up from there.
We often take more short and shallow breaths than we realize. Belly breathing can be practiced sitting, laying down flat, or laying on your back with your legs up the wall for additional support in lowering your heat rate. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest and begin taking long, slow inhales through your nose, filling your stomach with breath. As you exhale through your mouth you should feel your stomach contract but your chest stay fairly still. This is a great practice to wind down just before bed, and can be practiced as long as needed to experience relief.
Once you have found a comfortable seat, start by exhaling all the air in your lungs out of your mouth. Close your mouth and take a deep inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath and count to seven, then exhale deeply through your mouth for a count of eight.
Each of these methods are an effective way to prevent or ease anxiety as well as regulate the nervous system. Breath work takes us out of the sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” and into the parasympathetic nervous system. Reverting back to the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest” allows out body to function better as a whole.