Most of us pay little attention to our breathing and may habitually have shallow breathing, which can add to chronic stress, tension, and even decreased cognitive function and brain fog. With our breath, we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, removing acidity from the blood.
Breathing also affects our parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest part of our nervous system), regulates heart rate variability (which is a measure of stress), influences the microbiome, and changes inflammatory markers. Just slowing our breath down and breathing more deeply can be helpful, and simple breathing techniques can help us optimize these effects.
Try these ancient yogic breathing techniques daily for a week and see what shifts you notice in your mood and stress levels
Breathing Technique #1: Alternate Nostril Breathing
This technique quiets the mind and creates balance. Click here to watch a video of me demonstrating the technique.
- To practice this technique, hold your right hand up, resting your pointer and middle fingers in between your eyebrows and place your thumb against your right nostril.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale slowly through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger, retain your breath for a brief moment.
- Then release the thumb only, exhaling slowly through the right nostril.
- After exhaling completely, inhale slowly through the right nostril keeping the ring finger on the left nostril to close it.
- Close the right nostril with your thumb, pausing briefly.
- Then release the ring finger, exhaling slowly through the left nostril.
- You have now completed one cycle. Repeat for at least five to ten cycles.
Breathing Technique #2: Ujayyi Breath aka Victorious Breath
This technique is energizing and relaxing, assists with detoxification, and relieves agitation. Click here to watch a video of me demonstrating the technique.
- To practice this technique, with your mouth closed, slowly breathe in and out through your nose.
- As you exhale, gently constrict the muscles in the back of your throat so that you are making a noise that sounds like waves on the ocean.
- Continue to gently constrict the back of your throat as you inhale and exhale.
- If you have difficulty finding the sound of the breath, first try breathing with your mouth open, making a soft “ha” sound on the exhale as if you were trying to fog up a window. Once you have practiced a few times, try again with your mouth closed.
- Continue breathing in and out completely and deeply.
- Do this for three breaths up to several minutes.
Make breathwork a part of your daily practice to promote relaxation and be able to more effectively manage stress.
Adapted from “Resilient Health: How to Thrive in Our Toxic World“