Breathing exercises and deep breathing techniques are often considered one of the most beneficial relaxation techniques for stress relief. It is much easier to say “just relax” than to actually sit back and just relax. With the fast paced nature of society today, stresses and anxieties abound in our daily lives. Using deep breathing techniques for relaxation is one of the best ways to relieve these stresses and anxieties by getting your brain and your body on the same page. By slowing down your body with deep, mindful breathing, you can also slow down your racing mind.
This simultaneous state of relaxed homeostasis between the body and the mind is the ultimate goal of all deep breathing exercises for stress. Getting the body and the mind to act as one through deep breathing has a wide variety of benefits including increased control of emotions, better memory and concentration, a stronger immune system, greater energy levels, more positive mood, greater awareness of self and others, and even improved posture.
When we engage in deep breathing exercises to relieve stress, we are supplying our brains with greater blood and oxygen supplies than it typically receives from high breathing or low breathing, which are the two main types of breaths we typically take. High breathing occurs most typically when we take shallow, fast paced breaths from our chests, not inhaling fully or expanding the lungs. People engage in low breathing when they are bent over or have poor posture and are breathe shallow breaths from the stomach. People engaging in low breathing are only taking half breaths, in a sense. Regardless of the specific type of deep breathing exercise, they all emphasize a mindful focus on the processes of inhalation and exhalation. The ideal or complete breath in deep breathing techniques originates from the diaphragm.
Pranayama Yoga exercises are very popular, highly effective forms of deep breathing techniques for relaxation that are incorporated into the tenants of Yoga. Pranayama emphasizes controlled breathing as a mechanism for relaxation, mind and body homeostasis, and ultimately for the promotion of overall wellbeing.
The four traditional Pranayama stages are:
- Arambha – interest in deep, controlled breathing
- Ghata – immersion into the process itself
- Parichay – knowledge or relaxation is attained
- Nispatti – the exercises bring the participant to a higher plain of thinking
Two of the many examples of Pranayama yoga exercises include Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma breathwork. Kapalabhati is a quick, deep breath focused on cleansing the respiratory system, but also on cleansing the mind. According to Yoga experts, breathing in this manner will help to clear out the toxins in system while promoting relaxation. With the technique Anuloma Viloma the participant breathes in though one nostril, holds the breath, and breathes out through the other nostril. This rhythmic breathing technique creates a communication between the right and left-brain, which can lead to a whole, well-balanced psyche.
Pranayama deep breathing techniques range from the very simple to the highly complex, but the following deep breathing exercise for stress management is simple and can be practiced in almost any location at any time.
1) Sit up or lie down with your back straight, and with a hand on your stomach to track your breaths.
2) Breathe in deeply through your nostrils, being sure to note that the hand on your stomach rises with the breath.
4) Exhale through your mouth by pushing, ensuring that your stomach muscles contract simultaneously.
6) Repeat until relaxed
This simple breathing exercise is just one example of how deep breathing techniques can help you manage stress and anxiety. Though Pranayama Yoga exercises are a widely practiced form of deep breathing, they are certainly not the only viable options. Deep breathing techniques continue to grow and develop with the needs and anxieties of the culture.