Sometimes when things get busy, we don't realise that we hold our breath when we are concentrating, or are just generally not breathing optimally. Mindful awareness of what is happening with our breath can tune us into a fantastic resource for calm and focus. Breathing techniques are also wonderful as part of a self-care routine to help us manage our stress and to draw on in moments when we need to calm down.
Practicing your favourite breathing techniques when you are relaxed also helps reinforce those positive patterns in the breath and their effects, and make them easier to draw on in moments of stress.
Here are three breathing exercises that you can try, finding which one resonates or switch them up depending on what you need in the moment. The first is the most straightforward and one which can be done out and about subtly or around others on zoom calls under the desk for example, without drawing attention to yourself.
I love Dr Karen Treisman's approach and her channel is an excellent resource to go to for all things self-regulation.
The second video introduces the box breath, an exercise where you hold the breath for a few seconds between inhaling and exhaling slowly. When practicing breathing exercises in your everyday life, remember to tune into your natural breath pattern first, accepting and honouring what is, and working slowly and in line with what feels comfortable as you gently see what adaptations would be helpful to you to introduce. If it feels like you are forcing the breath, or struggling in any way just change the pace and rate of the exercise to suit you. Remember when you force the breath against the will of the body, there are no benefits to be gained. Instead, aim for a place of ease with the breath which will promote its power for relaxation rather than frustration.
The YouTube channel below has lots of breathing exercises which you can explore and experiment to find the right breathing techniques for you.
The final video is a yoga breathing exercise, alternate nostril breathing. This is slightly more complicated technique, with using the hand to seal off one nostril at a time to breath and exhale through the nostrils separately, however once you get the hang of it it can feel wonderfully relaxing and is great to refocus and regroup if you are working on things that require lots of concentration.
Yoga with Adriene's Youtube channel is fantastic for introducing yoga techniques and ideas in an accessible way, and is an excellent resource to further explore a home yoga practice.
This NHS page has some excellent guided relaxations, which are great to practice to foster ongoing self-regulation and to manage stress. Making time to practice these when you are already relaxed is just as beneficial to body and mind, and make them easier to draw on on days when you really need to switch off.
I hope you enjoy these links to resources that I find helpful in managing stress using the breath. Of course this list is not exhaustive and you may have videos and resources that you draw on as part of your own self-care practices and I would encourage you to explore and find what works for you creating your own list of go to techniques to help you look after yourself.
Warmest wishes everyone!
Elle Gilbertson is committed to inclusivity and welcomes people of all ethnicities, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and people of all ages.
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