Stress and breathing are interconnected. When you are stressed, it can cause shortness of breath, which can make you anxious. When you become anxious, your breathing muscles tighten causing you to breathe faster. This makes the muscles tired causing more shortness of breath and consequently more anxiety. Breathing exercises for stress relief can be very helpful.
One way to avoid this vicious cycle is to relax. Relaxation doesn’t mean unwinding in front of the television with a glass of good wine. It involves using breathing techniques to get more air into your lungs. Breathing may sound like a no-brainer, but its not as easy as it sounds. Breathing exercises require daily practice for 10 to minutes a day, but to truly harness the power of these techniques, you need to aim for 30 minutes to an hour.
Handy Breathing Exercises For Stress Relief
There are many different breathing exercises for stress and doing them the right way will greatly help reduce your anxiety symptoms. Explore these five breathing techniques and your stress and breathing problems will be under your control.
1. Use the Yes Breath Technique
Gay Hendricks, psychologist and author of Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery discusses two essential breathing techniques on his blog The Breathing Coach.
In the first exercise:
- You sit down in a comfortable chair with your pelvis resting on the chair and your feet flat on the floor.
- Then you rest your hands on your thighs or on your waist.
- Next, you start inhaling and letting your stomach expand with your breath.
- As your stomach expands, you roll your pelvis forward and extend your spine while you bring your head up.
- Then you exhale, drop your head down and draw your pelvis back. Your body should make a “C” shape.
- Repeat the above steps for a few minutes.
2. Using the Centering Breath Technique
The second of Gay’s breathing techniques for stress involves the following steps:
- Start by breathing slowly and gently all the way out.
- Then pause for about ten seconds or thirty seconds and breathe in again when you need a breath. When you do this, the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide in your body achieves a balance. This is called the Centering Breath.
- Do a few cycles of regular breathing, then resume the second round of the Centering Breath process.
- Once the 2nd round is complete, do a few rounds of normal breathing and then do the third cycle of the Centering Breath.
3. Co2 Rebreathing
CalmClinic suggests doing the Co2 Rebreathing technique to calm your body. Rebreathing doesn’t completely stop an anxiety attack but it reduces the severity of the symptoms.
To do this:
- Place your hands over your mouth and breath slowly.
- The point of doing this is to prevent Co2 from leaving your lungs so you can regain the carbon dioxide levels.
- Repeat cycle for a few rounds.
4. Advanced Deep Breathing
This exercise is ideal for those suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks. Its not easy to do this exercise initially, but you can master this with regular practice and extract its power when you’re hit with a panic attack. You can do about 6 to 10 breath cycles but avoid this technique if you have a heart condition.
To do this:
- Find a quite place and sit down comfortably on a chair with your back straight.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other one on your stomach.
- Inhale (breathe through your stomach first and then your chest) and count up to 5 heartbeats. When you do this, the hand on your stomach will rise, while the one on the chest will not move much.
- Hold your breath and then count up to 7 heartbeats.
- Exhale and count up to 9 heartbeats. Here the hand on your stomach will move in while the one on the chest will not move much.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
For an additional level of relief, you can combine breathing exercises for stress with muscle relaxation techniques.
To do this:
- Wear loose clothes, remove your shoes and sit in a comfortable place.
- Relax yourself by taking slow breaths.
- When you are relaxed, start focusing on your right foot. Feel the muscles on the foot and slowly start to squeeze the muscles up to a count of 10.
- Then relax your foot and feel the tension ebb away from it. Your feet should start feeling loose feet again.
- Stay relaxed for a minute by breathing slowly and deeply.
- Next, shift your focus to the left foot and follow the same process of tense and release.
- Relax by breathing slowly and deeply.
- Then move to other parts of your body, one at a time. You can do this exercise on your abdomen, back, neck and so on.
Breathing exercises for stress slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce the activity of the stress hormones, boost self esteem, improves concentration and lowers fatigue among others. If you want to manage stress effectively using breathing techniques make sure you do them in consultation with your medical practitioner.
Read more breath exercises for stress relief: WomensHealthMag
So what about you? Do you have any breathing exercises that you love or that you find helpful relieving stress?