It’s safe to say that most of us are carrying more stress than ever before, and it’s good to make time to let that stress out in healthy ways. One of the best – and easiest – ways you can instantly decrease your stress level is to practice deep breathing exercises. When you use deep, intentional breathing, it lets your brain known that it’s OK to come down from a heightened sense of anxiety and relax. These exercises can be done anywhere – even in a Zoom meeting – so try adding them to your daily routine today.
Belly breathing is the foundation of all deep breathing exercises, so it’s an excellent place to start your deep breathing practice. To start, sit up straight or lie flat in a comfortable position. Put one hand just below your ribs and one at the top of your sternum, then take a deep breath in, letting your abdomen push your hand out, and fill your lungs entirely. When you breathe out, open your mouth slightly, as if you were going to whistle, and notice how the hand on your abdomen moves back in. As you’re breathing, take a moment of mindfulness to notice how each breath feels.
4-7-8 breathing is based on belly breathing with a few timing modifications. You’ll start by taking a deep belly breath for a count of 4, then hold your breath while you count to 7. Finally, breathe out while you count to 8, aiming to get all of the breath out by count 8.
Roll breathing is another advanced form of belly breathing and starts with 8 to 10 deep belly breaths. After those initial 10 breaths, try to focus the air you are breathing in into the bottom of your lungs then the top of your chest where your hand is placed on your sternum. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a slight “whoosh” sound, and notice how any tension is leaving your body. As a note, some people experience dizziness the first few times they try roll breathing, so work up to it slowly instead of all at once.
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This morning breathing exercise is great to wake you up, relieve stiffness, and clear your breathing passages first thing in the morning. Start in a standing position, then bend forward from the waist with a slight bend in your knees, letting your arms dangle. As you slowly roll your torso back up, take a deep breath. Once your head rolls back up, hold this deep breath for a few seconds, then bend forward again as you exhale.