Whether life is fabulous, frenetic or fraught we can only benefit from a simple, calming breathing technique.
In everyday life this fulfils a re-set function, maintaining or bringing us gently back to homeostasis or balance.
If we’re feeling a little stressed, anxious or frustrated, our breathing can become shallow, short and irregular. We’d like it to be smooth, deep and effortless, like the breath we were born with.
Breathing well accesses the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system, bringing us into ‘rest and digest’ mode, rather than ‘fight or flight’. We function at our best, and feel well.
In turn, this gives us perspective and allows us to respond rather than react. Self-doubt no longer plagues us and instead our intentions, clarity of mind and creativity come to the fore. We sleep well. We feel more confident and at ease. We listen to and understand others better. Life simply gets better.
Here are three beautifully simple yoga breathing techniques for calm and balance, and for getting in touch with how we breathe.
I welcome you to try them all and see which feels most natural to you. If you do one every day for a week, and then make it a part of your life you will notice great positive change.
These can be done at any time of day or just before bed.
1) ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’
This practice turns our attention inwards and frees us from external distractions.
Sit or lie down comfortably and simply breathe in and out naturally, without trying to control or change anything. Lower your gaze or close your eyes if you wish.
Each time you breathe in, say internally to yourself ‘I am breathing in’. Each time you breathe out, say internally to yourself ‘I am breathing out’. Take your time, there is no rush. Do this for up to three minutes.
Breathe in and out through the nose, or if you prefer, you can exhale through the mouth.
Here’s a trick: if you have a straw handy, breathe in through your nose and out through the straw. This lengthens your outbreath and increases the relaxing effect of the technique.
2) ‘Heart – belly’
Sit or lie with one palm at the centre of your chest (breastbone) – the heart centre – and the other just below your belly button. Eyes and mouth gently closed. Breathe in and out through the nose naturally, without any control.
Take your mind to each of your palms. As you breathe in, where do you feel your breath most? Which palm do you feel rising most or exclusively? As you breathe out, which palm falls first or most? Or is there an evenness of sensation below both palms? Observe, witness, without analysing or judging whatever you notice.
Then take 10 gentle breaths with both palms on the belly. When we are relaxed this is where we breathe: notice how the belly rises as you breathe in and falls as you breathe out. The movement may be tiny. This watching and witnessing is very subtle and soothing in itself.
3) ‘In for 2 out for 3’
Either sit or lie down. Eyes and mouth gently closed. Breathe in and out through the nose naturally, without any control.
Breathe in for a count of 2 and out for a count of 3. The speed of this count will simply be determined by what feels comfortable for you.
If the count is easy for you, extend the outbreath to a count of 4. (If it is not comfortable for you to lengthen the exhalation, breathe in and out for an equal count of 2).
When we extend the exhalation we calm the nervous system and also build up our breathing capacity. You may feel you also have more breath for the inhalation.
This is a great one for public situations when we want some calm and clarity and need an ‘invisible’ technique. Just a few rounds of practice have an immediate effect.
Whenever you practice a technique give yourself a few moments to pause at the end, in order to absorb the practice and settle before you continue with your day.
I hope you enjoy trying these practices and making them a calming and enriching part of your life.
Please share if you find them helpful.