How to Control Your Breathing
What if I told you that there is something you do every moment of every day that can help decrease your stress, improve your mood, and help you sleep?
There is. It’s called breathing.
We never really think about breathing. It’s just something we do. However, it may be one of the most overlooked strategies to make you feel better. Stress has been associated with an increase in shallow breathing, which delivers less oxygen to your brain. By adjusting or restarting your breathing pattern, you can increase the amount of oxygen reaching the brain. Inhaled air delivers oxygen to energize your blood, while your exhaled breath clears toxins from your body. Over time, humans tend to slouch, which puts pressure on the diaphragm and further increases the work of breathing. There is a reason why people breathe into a bag when they panic: because it works.
We’d like to share with you some breathing techniques and patterns to help you through those stressful times and make your life a little happier.
What Are the Different Breathing Patterns
This technique is taught by most psychologists to people who are dealing with stress and anxiety. It is quick and can be done anywhere, at any time.
- Sit straight and place the tip of your tongue on the top palate of your mouth right behind the teeth. Hold it there through your breaths.
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold for a count of 7.
- Exhale for a count of 8.
- Repeat 3-4 times.
Abdominal breathing has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system plays a key role in digestion, rest, and recovery.
- Optional: sit on the floor and place your hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
- Inhale slowly, taking belly breaths. Use your abdomen. Notice how the hand on your abdomen moves a lot more than the one on your chest.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to inhale and exhale slowly, but comfortably.
Sama Vritti or equal breathing
This type of breathing is recommended before bed. It can clear your mind of racing thoughts and help you fall asleep.
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight, meditation-style, or Indian-style.
- Inhale slowly through the nose, starting with a count of 4.
- Exhale slowly through the nose for a count of 4.
- You can gradually increase the count to 8, or whenever you’re comfortable doing it.
Kapalabhati or skull shining breathing
Skull-shining breathing requires a little force. It can be used to promote focus and increase energy during slumps in your day.
- Sit in the meditative pose, with your spine straight.
- Take a passive deep breath in.
- Exhale forcibly with your abdomen.
- Take a 2-second break in between each cycle. Aim for 10 cycles.
The complete breath
This breathing technique brings about an overall relaxed feeling and can help you wake up. Taking a few deep breaths increases the volume of oxygen getting to your lungs, therefore increasing the volume of oxygen reaching your brain and other organs. Be mindful of how your chest and abdomen expand and contract with each breath.
- Take a slow full breath in, and slowly feel each muscle expand.
- Exhale the full breath slowly, and notice how your body moves in the reverse direction.
- Can be repeated 3 to 5 times, or whenever you deem so.
We take the breath for granted, yet it is essential to our existence. When you learn to control it, you begin to have greater control over your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.