Breathing Techniques to Bring Calmness
I was laying on the couch watching “Your Honor” on Prime. If you haven’t seen this, it’s really good. It’s a story about a teenage boy and his father (Bryan Cranston) who is a prominent judge. The boy gets caught up in a tragic accident that involves New Orleans’s biggest crime boss’s son. Being a judge, Cranston feels like he must do the right thing by going to the police, but changes his mind and ends up covering up his son’s horrific mistake. Anyways, I’m laying there watching this when I notice I’m barely breathing and my body is super tense. I noticed how my body was responding and I took a few big deep breaths and focused on relaxing my body. I’ve actually noticed myself doing this quite more frequently in the last few months, becoming conscious of my body’s physical reaction to my surroundings and using breathing to counteract.
Benefits of Conscious Breathing
There are so many benefits of utilzing breathing techniques; reducing stress, increasing energy, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure to name a few. If you don’t believe me, just search on Google Scholar and you’ll find tons of medical and scientific articles backing this up. In fact, most researchers agree that breathing should be the first line of defense to reduce stress, anxiety, AND depression over medication. Slow and deep breathing from the diaphragm show time and time again that you are able to control your physiological responses to stress and anxiety. While I’m not going to go into the scientific proof or details, I’ll let you dive down that rabbit hole, I am going to give you several techniques that you can do on your own to reduce any stress or anxiety you are feeling. So the next time someone at work stresses you out, or a jackass cuts you off on the road, remember to breathe.
In the 4-7-8 breathing technique, all you are going to do is breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7, and then exhale for 8. This technique can be done in any position, standing, sitting, driving, etc.
- Take one, slow deep breath in from your belly through your nose and count to four as you breathe in.
- After you reach 4, hold your breath and count to 7.
- Then slowly and in a controlled manner, exchale through your mouth for a count of 8
- Repeat three to five times, or until you feel calmer.
Lion’s breath, focuses not just on your breathing, but also relaxing your facial muscles. A lot of times when we become stressed or tense, our face and jaw need some extra love.
- Spread your fingers as wide as possible.
- Take a long slow deep breath in through your nose.8
- Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and stretch it down toward your chin.
- Exhale forcefully through your mouth.
- While exhaling, make a “haaaaa” sound.
- Breathe normally for a few cycles.
- Repeat lion’s breath up to 7 times.
Mindfulness breathing uses your normal breathing patterns in conjunction with a positive thought. When I engage in mindfulness breathing, I am usually experiencing a specific emotion that is causing my body to tense up. During mindfulness breating, you will want to be in a relaxed position and allow your mind to focus on a specific positive word or phrase. Some good examples of this would be “in calm, out tension,” or “relax.”
- Think of the word or phrase you want to focus your attention on.
- You can close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise.
- Try to maintain a constant focus on your breath, noticing the cool air entering your nose, and the warm air exiting your mouth.
- After you focus on your breath, associate your word or phrase to the action of breathing in and out.
- Repeat the in and out breath/word association for 7-10 cycles.
Humming Bee Breath
The humming bee breath technique introduces some sound and is great when you are feeling frustrated, anxious, or angry. Since you will be making a slight noise during this technique, it would be good to practice in a private space.
- Sit in a relaxed position, on the floor, or in a chair
- Close your eyes and relax your face.
- Place both index fingers on the tragus cartilage that partially covers your ear canal.
- Take a long deep breath in through your nose.
- As you exhale, gently press your fingers into the cartilage, like you are plugging your ears.
- Keeping your mouth closed, make a loud humming sound.
- Continue until you feel relaxed.
Box breathing is a good technique to use for both stress relief and to promote concentration. It is used to slow down your breathing in a very controlled manner. If you are able to sit up straight while performing this breathing exercise, you will find it easier to take the deep controlled breaths. During the exercise, it might be helpful to imagine you are drawing a square in front of your face.
- For four counts, breathe in through your nose.
- For four counts, hold your breath.
- For four counts, breathe out thorugh your mouth.
- For four counts, wait to inhale again.
- Continue for 3-4 rounds.