The overwhelming benefits of meditative breathing are simply unquestionable. However, this method of reducing stress and anxiety is being overlooked in western society right when we need it the most. With stress-related health problems on the rise, we need natural and simple healing methods like deep breathing and meditation to heal our minds, bodies and our spirits.
Meditation and breathing exercises are part of a practice called ‘Mindfulness’, a practice which has been around for thousands of centuries in the east, and is now commonly used during cognitive-behavioural therapy. This is the act of being present – being fully aware of what we’re doing and where we are.
With stress and other mental-health concerns such as anxiety and depression on the rise, introducing some form of breathing meditation into your life will be extremely beneficial. In this post I’ll be covering simple breathing exercises you can incorporate into your daily life, as well as some of the major benefits of deep breathing spiritually, physically and mentally.
Deep Breathing Benefits
In the east, deep breathing exercises are used through various practices. There is a heavy focus on breathing in yoga as well as in meditation, and there is a reason that it is so heavily relied on.
Spiritually, breath-work can connect you closer to your true and higher-self. When practicing breathing spiritually, you can feel the life-force (prana) flow within you as you inhale, and when exhaling, send out positive energy to our world.
As well as this, scientific studies also have shown that you can improve your cognitive function through meditative breathing exercises as well as encourage our thought processes. These same studies have also shown how much of a benefit practicing breath-work can have on reducing stress and anxiety.
The tendency to breathe through the mouth with short, shallow breaths results in increased bodily stress. As you are taking in less air, you are increasing your chances for mental and physical complications and potentially can become more susceptible to illness and fatigue.
Overall, the benefits of incorporating a breathing practice into your daily life is a no-brainer and whilst you shouldn’t control it for prolonged periods of time, it’s easy to incorporate a 10-minute ritual into your day.
Meditative Breathing Exercises
This method was first developed by Dr. Andrew Veil. However, its roots are based in what is called pranayama – an ancient yogic breathing technique.
The 4-7-8 meditative breathing exercise is widely known to tackle sleeplessness but is also used to reduce anxiety by relaxing the body’s fight or flight response.
Here’s how you do it:
Make sure you’re sitting, or laying down in a comfortable position whilst paying attention to your posture. Now, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, behind your front teeth making sure your tongue isn’t touching them.
Once you’re comfortable, you can follow these 4 steps;
1. With your mouth open, exhale your lungs completely. You should hear a whooshing sound.
2. Now close your lips and relax your jaw – remembering to place your tongue back in the correct position (your teeth should be sat slightly apart). Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds.
3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
4. Then, release. Exhaling once again through the mouth, this time for 8 seconds.
As a beginner, it’s recommended you only repeat this process a total of 4 times. Once you become used to it, you can eventually go up to 8 full-breaths.
However, if you find yourself getting light-headed after a couple of deep-breaths, it’s best to stop rather than force yourself to continue. After some practice, your tolerance will build and you’ll be able to complete the cycle for longer.
Nadi Shodhana: 'Alternate Nostril Breathing'
Commonly known as ‘alternate nostril breathing’ in the west, Nadi Shodhana literally means “clearing the channels of circulation.”
This technique is great for settling the mind, body and emotions as it rebalances the left and right hemispheres of the brain; clearing the energetic channels within. And so, by regulating the flow of air between each nostril with intention and focus, it serves the purpose of creating balance in the mind.
Practicing Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing’ when you begin to feel panic rising or if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed will help you feel more grounded.
Here’s how you can do it;
1. Sit comfortably, focusing on your posture.
2. Ensure you are sitting tall with your shoulders relaxed and tongue placed to the roof of your mouth.
3. Place your left hand, relaxed either on your knee, or in your lap – whichever is more comfortable.
4. Bring your right hand just in front of your face and place your middle and pointer finger between your eyebrows. These two fingers will support your hand through the process.
5. Now, you thumb and index finger will open and close the nostrils.
6. With your thumb, close the right nostril and inhale slowly and deeply through the open, left nostril on the other side.
7. Once you have inhaled fully, close the left nostril and so that both nostrils are now closed.
8. Pause for a brief moment , then release the right nostril and exhale fully.
9. With the right nostril still open, inhale slowly and deeply until you have fully inhaled before closing the right nostril once again.
10. Now continue to repeat this process 4-10 times, keeping focus on your breath and breathing alternately through each nostril.
Meditative Breathing Visualisation
As a visual being, this particular exercise is one I use very often in breathing meditation. Seeing something visually whilst I’m meditating is extremely useful for me as it helps me stay focused on the practice.
Watching the waves of air flow in and out of your body is also incredibly calming. So, this method is perfect for quick stress relief.
Here’s how you do it;
1. Find a comfortable seating position and close your eyes – preferably somewhere quiet.
2. Now, slow down your breath but keep a natural rhythm.
3. As you inhale, imagine you are breathing in all of the energy surrounding you.
4. Watch it seep into your nostrils – all of the stress and anxiety. Bring it all inside and feel every inch of it.
5. Now, take all of that energy and exhale it out. Visualise yourself letting go of all of the bad energy you were holding onto.
6. Keep going and watch the energy transform into calm.
Eventually, the tension within you will be released and your mind, body and soul can relax.
Which technique are you going to try?
I hope you found something helpful in this post that you can use next time you start to feel yourself becoming overwhelmed.
Do you use any other techniques? Let me know in the comments! With love, The Calming Club