A deep breath has the power to change your entire day. Seriously! Whether you’re feeling anxious, having trouble sleeping, or you’re simply struggling to focus, a few minutes of breathing with intention can help reset your mind and body, lower your heart rate, and even boost your immune system. Here are a few tried-and-true breathing techniques to help you relax and feel calm.
The 4-7-8 Breath Technique
Long exhales have been shown to quiet the mind and help us relax, especially before bed. For this technique, lie on your back. Start with a few deep breaths, and then begin to count your inhales and exhales: breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale slowly out your mouth for 8 counts. If you can’t reach the full count, use a count that is comfortable for you, and work your way up.
Alternating Nostril Breath
With this breathing technique, you’ll breathe in and out from one nostril at a time. Start by sitting in a comfortable position. With clean hands, use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with one finger on your right hand. Release the thumb to open the right nostril and exhale through this side. Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril. Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side. Continue breathing in this way for a few minutes.
Commonly used in yoga, this technique is great for finding clarity and focus. Close your eyes and turn your attention to your breath. You don’t need to adjust it or change it. Just notice your breathing: Is it shallow or deep, fast or slow, steady or shaky? Feel the breath on your skin as you inhale and exhale, and begin to become aware of how the breath moves your body. A few minutes of breathing in this way is incredibly soothing!
Cooling Breath Technique
This technique is great if you find yourself angry or emotionally charged. Start by forming an O shape with your lips and sticking your tongue out a little, curling the sides up. If you can’t do this, lightly clench your teeth together. Then, inhale slowly and deeply through the mouth, as if you’re sipping from a straw. Your breath should feel cool as you breathe in. Then, close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Repeat this for a few minutes until you feel calm.
Meditate On It
From a quick 3-minute breathing practice to longer meditations, learning to breathe with attention is a skill that will benefit you in the long run! If you feel ready to deepen your breathing practice or need extra guidance, many meditation apps offer plenty of content focusing on breathwork. Here are just a few:
The Key to Breathing Better
Many factors can lead to that stuck, tight feeling when we try to take a deep breath, from poor posture to seasonal allergies. The good news is that there are some things you can do from home to help strengthen the muscles around your lungs, help improve your lung function, and deepen the effectiveness of your breathing techniques!
Practice your posture. Rounding forward in your spine and shoulders can lead to weaker muscles in the diaphragm, chest, and back, affecting your breathing. You can use simple movements like rolling your shoulders back, yoga poses such as cat-cow and cobra, and core exercises like planks and alternating bicycle crunches to improve your strength and flexibility.
Cleanse the air. Breathing is only as healthy as your air quality. To ensure those deep breaths are doing you good, open the windows, get some fresh air flowing into your space daily, and keep your home free from dust buildup, mold, and artificial fragrances. You can also invest in a high-quality air filter or try your green thumb with some air-purifying indoor plants.
Massage it out. Massage is one of the best tools to help release tension and improve oxygen flow in your body. Try this easy, quick massage technique to free up the muscles in your chest and improve your breathing: as you inhale through your nose, use the tips of all of your fingers to tap the upper front ribs, beneath your collar bones, then press your hands flat to your chest as you exhale through your mouth as if pressing the air out of your lungs. Repeat 3-5 times, then move to the lower ribs.
In addition to these breathing techniques, longer therapeutic massage sessions of at least 60 minutes can help you achieve a deeper sense of peace and calm. Book a massage with a certified Soothe therapist today.