Deep breathing techniques to relax and de-stress
With Christmas on its way and life being slightly more unpredictable than usual, it’s only natural that our stress levels may start to increase. When we’re under stress, our breathing may become faster, or we might even be holding it in without realising. Incorporating these simple deep breathing techniques into your daily routine, or when you’re feeling stressed, can make a huge difference to your wellbeing.
Often practiced within yoga, this breathing technique can help to reduce your stress levels, quieten your thoughts and improve your overall focus.
Begin by opening your mouth slightly with your tongue behind your teeth. Inhale slowly through the gap between your teeth as you start to lift your chin upwards towards the sky (or ceiling, if you’re indoors!) At the end of your inhalation, close your mouth and exhale through your nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to its starting position. Repeat for eight to twelve breaths, or until you begin to feel calmer. If you can curl your tongue – another option is to repeat the same process but with your tongue curled (not everyone can, though, so don’t worry if you can’t!)
The ‘long exhale’
If you suffer from sleepless nights, this breathing practice could be the perfect one for you to practice before you go to sleep – but it can also be used to soothe symptoms of anxiety during the day, too. The overall goal is to gradually increase your exhalation until it is double the length of your inhalation.
To start this breathing practice, find a comfortable seat and lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (aim for hip-width apart). Put your palm on your stomach and breathe in slowly and begin to feel your breath rise and fall. With your palm still on your stomach count the length of every inhalation and exhalation for a few more breaths. When your breathing becomes equal in length, you can now start to increase the length of your exhalation by one or to two seconds, taking care to ensure you aren’t straining. You’ll soon start to experience the relaxing benefits wash over you. Ahhhhh.
Alternate nostril breathing
Don’t be put off by the name – this deep breathing exercise can help to combat symptoms of stress and anxiety. This practice is wonderful for increasing your energy levels and bringing a sense of overall calm.
Begin by sitting on a chair or on the floor with your back straight. Press your thumb on the outside of one nostril and close it off, and inhale fully using the other free nostril. When you’ve done a full breath, release your thumb and immediately press your ring finger on the opposite nostril to close it off and exhale slowly. You can then repeat the process, switching nostrils for your inhales and exhales.