2 Breathing Exercises to Immediately Calm
By Chris Brown
Stress is an inevitable part of existence. How you deal with that stress can determine whether you let anxiety take control over your life. Rather than overwhelm you further with a lot of different methods, below are the two best breathing exercises to keep you calm when anxiety starts to rise.
Breathing Exercise 1: 4-7-8 Breathing Method
This breathing method was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who combined many yogic breathing techniques into one simple exercise. Breathing with the 4-7-8 method has been shown to allow people to fall asleep faster and can transform one from an anxious to a relaxed state. Dr. Weil calls the technique aptly a "natural tranquilizer for the nervous system."
To perform Dr. Weil's 4-7-8 breathing, you must first place your tongue on the roof of your mouth (behind your front teeth) and carry out four steps through the course of one breath:
- Part your lips naturally and exhale completely, making a whooshing noise as you exhale
- Close your lips and inhale through your nose while counting to four
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale with another whooshing sound for eight seconds
You continue this method, starting back with the inhale step until you are relaxed. The 4-7-8 method works by causing you to exhale more than you inhale and, therefore, increase your circulating oxygen. This method only works better with continued practice, so don't be disheartened if you don't feel completely Zen after the first try.
Breathing Exercise 2: Left Nostril Breathing
Left nostril breathing is a technique used by Kundalini yogis for thousands of years. It utilizes what yogis refer to as the Ida and Pingala energy flow between right and left to calm the breather. Western science has discovered, similarly, that humans naturally breath through the left nostril when calm and switch to the right nostril breathing during fight-or-flight anxiety responses. This seems to suggest that there may be a circular, subconscious effect if someone facilitates breathing through their "relaxation nostril."
Performing this breathing method is relatively straightforward. Simply take the right thumb and block the right nostril (if you want to do this the yogi way, make sure all other fingers of the right hand are outstretched upwards, towards the sky). Then breath long, deep breaths through the left nostril. Make sure both your inward breath and exhale are equally slow. Like with most breathing exercises, imagining you are letting go of all tension with each exhale multiplies the calming effect.
By regularly utilizing these two breathing techniques when stressed, you can live a calmer, less-reactive existence.
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