Most of us have forgotten how to breathe. We breathe shallow and into the chest. We hold our breath far too long when we’re concentrating. We sit hunched over our desks, preventing air and vital oxygen getting into our bodies.
And when our breathing is faulty our energy, attitude, creativity and overall health suffer. Without sufficient oxygen running through our veins, we simply don’t function well at all.
If you take away all the stresses of life, with poor breathing habits, you’ll still feel anxious and under par.
I’ve written about the importance of breathing before, here and here, and I’m sure you’re already aware of the many benefits that good breathing habits provide so let’s get right to the goods, 3 basic breathing exercises that you can perform almost anywhere.
Exercise 1: Abdominal Breathing
Find a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. Then, breathe out through the mouth slowly and under control. Take six to ten deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes.
Exercise 2: Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadhi Shodhana)
This yoga staple is said to be a quick and calming way to bring you back to your center. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, tall spine, close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, and retain your breath for a brief pause. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale. Inhale slowly through the right side and repeat the exercise in reverse pausing briefly after inhale and exhale.
Exercise 3: Skull Shining Breath (Kapalbhati)
Find a comfortable sitting position with spine erect. Focus on your lower belly. If it helps, cup one hand in the other and press them gently against your lower belly. Begin with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. Let the belly rebound as you inhale and repeat the powerful exhale to establish a pulsing breathing pattern. Once comfortable with the contractions, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.
Practice these exercises daily. Whenever you have the opportunity or you feel like you really need it. Simply pick one from the list and breathe for 5, 10, 20 minutes or more.
If you want to conquer anxiety, then breathe. If you want to enhance your creativity, then breathe. If you want to increase your vital energy, then breathe.
You’ll notice the effects right away but do this for 6-8 weeks and the benefits of these basic breathing exercises will really start to show. Learning how to breathe properly is a skill that can positively impact most everything that you do.
IMAGE: MITCHELL JOYCE