Just as a deep breath can ease a stressful situation, regular breathing exercises can have real health benefits. Research also suggests meditative breathing can help your body de-stress and boost your mind’s feelings of calm and relaxation.
In addition, deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange, helping slow your heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Give it a shot with these three simple breathing exercises:
The focused breath helps you let go of distracting thoughts and sensations. This is especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Take a normal breath. Follow up with a deep breath, breathing in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Once you’ve perfected the focused breath, blend deep breathing with peaceful imagery and a focus word or mantra that helps you relax. A focal point will allow you to shift your attention from stressors to calmer, internal rhythms. Don’t try too hard; this may cause you to tense up. Practice once a day for at least 10 minutes.
Abdominal breathing works best before a presentation, exam or a stressful event. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, and then take a deep breath in through the nose. Make sure your diaphragm—not your chest—inflates with enough air to stretch out your lungs. Take six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes. Research shows a mere 10 minutes of this breathing exercise can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure immediately. Make it a daily habit for six to eight weeks, and these health benefits might last even longer.
The bellows breath, adapted from a technique commonly used in yoga, aims to increase alertness and help you feel more energized. Keeping your mouth closed but relaxed, take quick breaths in and out through your nose. Each time you inhale and exhale should be about the same in terms of duration, but each should be as short as possible. Repeat for up to 15 seconds on your first cycle, remembering to breathe normally after. Each time you complete a cycle, increase your time by five seconds until you reach a full minute. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, like the bellows of an accordion. Done properly, the bellows breath help you feel invigorated, the way you feel after exercising.