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Keep Calm and Breathe On! 5 Breathwork Techniques to Improve Your Health and Wellbeing

Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, manage negative thoughts, improve your relationships, or boost immunity, there is one solution that works for all of the above: breathwork. Yes, just breathe. It’s that simple.

Even during those moments when you’re overwhelmed by intense emotions and feel like screaming at the top of your lungs, you can turn it around. The fastest way to get out of your mind is to focus on your body, and specifically turn your attention to your breathing.

Breathwork involves different types of breathing exercises and techniques to promote overall health and wellbeing. These exercise focus on developing awareness of your inhaling and exhaling. Depending on the type of breathwork, you can use it to relax, boost your energy and bring your mind and body into balance.

In a systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing, researchers found “evidence of increased psychophysiological flexibility linking parasympathetic activity, CNS activities related to emotional control and psychological well-being in healthy subjects during slow breathing techniques.”

More specifically, “slow breathing techniques promote autonomic changes increasing Heart Rate Variability and Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia paralleled by Central Nervous System (CNS) activity modifications.”

Ready to get started? Here are five effective breathing exercises you can try today:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is designed to strengthen your diaphragm, which plays a crucial role in how you breathe. It’s popular in yoga and meditation practices. It’s also referred to as belly breathing.

This type of breathwork has numerous mental and physical health benefits, which includes lowering your blood pressure, reducing stress, and decreases your chance of injury during exercise. Diaphragmatic breathing enhances your body’s capacity to handle intense physical activity.

How to do it:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or flat surface to lie on your back
  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose for two seconds
  • Purse your lips, push lightly on your stomach, and exhale for two seconds.
  • Repeat

 

  1. Box Breathing

Also known as four-square breathing, this technique involves slow, deep breaths. Along with improving your performance and focus, box breathing is also great for reducing stress.

This type of deep breathing is scientifically-proven to balance the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Inhaling slowly increases CO2 levels in the blood, which stimulates the vagus nerve and triggers a relaxation response throughout the body.

How to do it:

  • Exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth for 4 seconds
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  • Exhale for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds
  • Repeat

 

  1. Wim Hof Method

This method combines cold therapy and breathing. Cold exposure can strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation, boost your mood and energy.

Adventurer and athlete Wim Hof was inspired to develop the Wim Hof Method after experiencing the positive effects of cold temperatures firsthand. Through practice and discipline, he trained himself to control his breath and heart rate to withstand the extreme environmental conditions. He believes that everyone has the ability to master control over their bodies in order to reap the health benefits.

Practicing the Wim Hof Method on a regular basis can also improve your mental health, concentration and sleep. To learn more about how to do this technique, you can sign up the free mini class!

  1. 4-7-8 Breathing

Created by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is based on pranayama - a form of breath control used in yoga.

This technique helps regulate your breath and provide your body with an oxygen boost. Dr. Weil calls it as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”

How to do it:

  • Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale forcefully through the mouth, purse the lips and make a “whoosh” sound for 8 seconds
  • Repeat 
  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

Another breath control practice inspired by yoga, alternate nostril breathing is designed to clear your energy and quiet your mind. Whether you want to alleviate daily stressors or connect to the present moment, this breathing exercise can help.

Studies show alternate nostril breathing can improve cardiovascular function, lung function, and endurance.

How to do it:

  • Find a comfortable seated position
  • Place your left hand on your left knee
  • Bring your right hand up to your nose
  • Exhale deeply
  • Press your right thumb on your right nostril to close it
  • Inhale through your left nostril
  • Close the left nostril with your fingers
  • Open the right nostril and exhale on this side
  • Inhale through the right nostril and then close it
  • Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side
  • Repeat this breathing pattern up to 5 minutes

Also, be sure to finish on the left side.

 

Now, take a deep, cleansing breath. You’ve got this. Never underestimate the power of your breathing!

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