Home Lifestyle & Travel Health & Beauty Feeling overwhelmed? Just breathe …

Feeling overwhelmed? Just breathe …

Inhale and exhale your way to a healthier body and a calmer, balanced and more focused mind with five simple exercises.

How we inhale and exhale has profound effects on our health, and it can be a very useful tool – both on and off our mats – especially when life gets challenging. Our breath, our prana, our life force is a powerful tool that, if practised regularly, can benefit our general physical and mental health, reduce stress, improve posture, improve quality of sleep, and more. The wonderful thing is that our breathing system is always with us so we can practice it anywhere and anytime. This is according to Joëlle Sleebos, Head of Yoga at Virgin Active.

Joëlle shares five mindful breathing exercises that teach you how to observe your breath, gain better control over it and make it a daily part of your feel-good routine.

  1. Mindful breathing

This type of exercise doesn’t involve manipulating your breath at all. It is simply about being aware of its natural rhythm and deepening it through gentle focus.  

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Begin by breathing normally and then tune into a physical cue such as the rise and fall of your chest or the feeling of the air through your nostrils. Your mind will wander naturally, but as soon as it does, refocus on your cue and continue to be as mindful of the rhythm as you can to heighten your awareness, eliminate distractions and quiet a racing mind.  

  1. Equal breathing

This type of breathing stems from the ancient practice of Pranayama Yoga. Essentially all you are doing is inhaling for the same amount of time that you’re exhaling. Making your breath smooth and steady can help bring about balance and serenity.

  • Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair, making sure your spine is neutral.
  • Take a few natural breaths to centre yourself.
  • Slowly count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale through your nose.
  • Then exhale for the same 4-second count. You can exhale out of your nose or mouth.
  • As you inhale and exhale be aware of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.
  1. Purse lipped breathing

This simple breathing technique helps you slow down the pace of your breathing by applying a deliberate effort in each breath.

  • Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair, making sure your spine is neutral.
  • Take a few natural breaths to centre yourself.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
  • Purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
  • Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.
  1. Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in Sanskrit, is a breathing practice for relaxation and balance and has also been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and lower heart rate. It cultivates a balance between the right and left sides of your brain.

  • Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair, making sure your spine is neutral.
  • Take a few natural breaths to centre yourself.
  • Lift your right hand toward your nose, pressing your first and middle fingers down toward your palm and leaving your other fingers extended.
  • After an exhale, use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril with your right pinkie and ring fingers.
  • Release your thumb and exhale out through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril and then close this nostril.
  • Release your fingers to open your left nostril and exhale through this side.
  • This is one cycle.
  • Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes.
  • Finish your session with an exhale on the left side.
  1. Sitali breathing

This Yoga-inspired breathing practice helps you lower your body temperature and calm your mind.

  • Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair, making sure your spine is neutral.
  • Take a few natural breaths to centre yourself.
  • Then, curling your tongue and extending it out a little, inhale through the tunnel of the tongue.
  • Release the tongue, close the mouth and exhale out through the nose.
  • Continue breathing like this for up to 5 minutes.

So, the next time life feels overwhelming, why not do the most natural thing you can – close your eyes and take a deep breath.

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