Functional Breathing 1
We’ve all experienced the need to tackle stress and anxiety and know the physical symptoms that come with it. For example, when we’re stressed our breathing tends to become shallow, our heart rate rises and we might feel hot. Conversely, when we feel deeply relaxed, our breath is deep and slow and our muscles naturally soft.
In moments of stress, it’s not always possible to simply will ourselves to relax but we can take control of our breathing to create the physical conditions that prevent stress from overtaking us. In fact, by learning to regulate and develop the breath, we can improve our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing wherever we are and at any time.
Breath work, or pranayama, is a major part of yoga and we’ll be sharing three exercises you can use to de-stress, energise and help you to fall asleep at night. First, the de-stress breath.
The De-Stress Breath (Coherent Breathing)
We can use this breath to deepen and balance our nervous system. Slowing down our default breath reduces the heart rate and promotes relaxation. In this practice, we’ll count inwardly as we breathe. This has the benefit of focusing the mind away from stressful thoughts and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system – key to relaxation. You can practice this breath anywhere and once you’ve got the hang of it, you don’t even have to close your eyes meaning you can implement it without anyone else even knowing!
How To Do It
- Find a comfortable position where you can let go of any noticeable tension in your muscles.
- Pay particular attention to the muscles around the mouth, jaw and shoulders.
- As you breathe down into your belly, count inwardly for a count of 4 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale.
- Gradually extend the inhale and exhale to 5 counts each.
- Then extend to 6 counts.
- Whenever your mind wanders off, just notice it and bring it back to counting.
- Aim to breathe like this for 3 minutes to begin with, gradually building up the time the more you practise.