Breathing exercises have been utilized for hundreds of years to help manage anxiety, stress and even sleeplessness. Learning about breathing exercises and how they can help the body is essential for a better quality of life.
Here are 10 breathing exercises you can use today to reduce your daily anxiety naturally and encourage faster sleep at night.
Four In, Four Out Slow Belly Breathing
This exercise brings composure to the body and mind, replenishing energy levels and focus. It increases the oxygen and nutrients being circulated around the body. Tension is released through the calm and slow focused breathing and muscles relax. This technique releases the muscles that if held too long but cause structural body issues while also supporting healthy muscle growth. This technique revitalizes the body with energy, restoring its calm and focus to better succeed during the day. This exercise can be used right before bed for relaxation or at the start of the day to center and energize the mind.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Deliberately slow your breathing down.
- Breathe from your relaxed belly.
- Keep your breaths smooth, steady, and continuous.
- Breathe in while counting slowly “1-2-3-4.”
- Breathe out while counting slowly “1-2-3-4.”
Whole Body Muscle Tensing and Relaxing
This exercise eases all the stress of the day from the body and encourages intuitive sleeping and restfulness. Best practiced at night before bed to empty the worried and cluttered mind of stress and prepare the body for rest, this breathing technique releases physical tension and can help with pain relief. It’s even been shown to help with migraines and systolic blood pressure.
- Take a very deep breath in with your mouth open; fill your lungs up.
- Hold your breath
- Tense muscles all over your body.
- Count 5-10 seconds.
- Let go of all the tension in your muscles and slowly let your breath out
This technique is perfect for those who need to take a moment to calm themselves down and respond healthily to stress. It also helps to clear the head before sleep. This technique is very effective against stress and can increase the mind’s performance and ability to concentrate during the day. It’s often used in meditation to center the mind and reach a state of internal peace. Those with high moments of stress during the day can benefit from practicing this technique in their free time.
- Breathe in while counting to 4. Make it a deep, belly breath.
- Hold your breath while counting to 4.
- Breathe out while counting to 4.
- Hold your breath while counting to 4.
- Do this sequence 2 more times.
This exercise promotes peace between the heart and lungs, syncing them to restore calm and reduce stress levels. Breathing can have a physiological and psychological effect on the body and being able to moderate and control your breathing is essential to maintaining your calm. This breathing exercise helps to minimize reactivity and improve your ability to act and think true to your calm self. This method is helpful right before bed to encourage sleep or during the day to keep active control of the self.
- Breath in for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold for a count of 6 seconds.
- Breathe out for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold for a count of 6 seconds.
This technique melds conscious breathing into intentional relaxation, letting the body feel weightless and carefree. You’re able to release heavy tension and aches from the neck and chest by moderate breathing in through the nose and prolonged exhales. This practice works well with those who want to manage the symptoms of panic, stress or anxiety that occur during the day.
- Breath in.
- When you breathe out, open your mouth and let the air out so you hear the sound of the air releasing, a soft sigh sound
- As you let the air out, relax your shoulders, neck, and other muscles and let go, like you’re melting.
Buteyko Small Breath Holds
This exercise was created in the 1950s by a doctor who determined that there are differences in breathing between healthy and unhealthy people. The controlled pause and hold of this breathing technique enables you to be in control of your breathing and to feel intense calm and at ease. Instead of letting emotions carry you away, this technique grounds you and restores control of your body. This exercise gives the user better breathing and anxiety control and is great for those who’re looking for some extra help falling asleep at night.
- With your mouth closed, take a small, but calm and relaxed, breath in.
- Take a small breath out.
- Hold your nose closed with your hand.
- Hold for a count of 5 seconds.
- Gentle, soft breathing in-between sets.
- Tongue rests at the roof of the mouth; Teeth slightly apart, jaw relaxed; Drop shoulders; relax chest and belly; Relax facial muscles.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This practice relaxes the mind, eases stress and anxiety and promotes an overall healthy well-being. With continual practice, you can experience a variety of benefits including lowered blood pressure and improved breathing. Deep breathing is not a frequent practice for many during the day but helps to clear out the lungs and refresh the body. This practice also helps with anxiety and stress and can be used at work in a few free moments to clear the mind and potentially avoid a panic attack.
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Then inhale slowly through your left nostril.
- Then close the left nostril with your right index finger and open the right nostril by removing the right thumb. Exhale very slowly through the right nostril.
- Then draw the air through the right nostril as long as you can do it with comfort and exhale through the left nostril by removing the right index finger.
- This is one round. Do 12 rounds.
- Breathing in and out should be as slow, soft steady, and long as possible. But don’t force.
This practice is based on a yogi technique called Pranayama. This technique allows the individual to focus on their breathing and let the stress and worries from the day dissipate from their body. It improves concentration and lowers stress and pain in the body. This practice is perfect for those who have a lot of worries or concerns on their mind and need a practice or technique to help them calm their thinking to fall asleep.
- Exhale all the air out through your mouth.
- Curl the tip of your tongue up to touch the hard ridge behind your upper front teeth and hold it there for the duration of the exercise
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Don’t force it, but take a good breath as this has to last for the next 15 counts.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7 seconds.
- Open your mouth and exhale through your mouth (still pressing the tip of your tongue to the hard ridge behind your upper front teeth) for a count 8. of You will make a sound as the air moves around your tongue. You may want to purse your lips if this helps you to direct the flow of your exhalation.
- Repeat 4 times.
(instructions written by madlyinlovewithlife.com)
The Complete Breath
This practice has a great impact when meditating and only needs to be completed a few times to feel the benefits. Practicing this technique a few times a day gives you the ability to consciously control the body and breathing. Perfecting each step and feeling the body fill up enables you to calm and become one with your body. It grounds you in the moment, releasing stress, and expands the body to hold the incoming nourishing air. This practice can be done at the start and end of the day to prepare the body for activity and to release it from stress at night.
- First, inhale completely at the abdomen.
- Continue to inhale by filling in the mid-section, the area of the diaphragm.
- Continue to inhale by filling the chest, allowing the up- per chest and the shoulders to rise.
- Then systematically release and empty from the upper portion, then the mid-section, and finally empty completely at the abdomen.
Relearn How to Breathe (Don Campbell)
Grounding the body in its natural processes and being consciously aware of the body’s actions brings peace to the mind and relaxation to the muscles. Learning how to mindfully breathe gives you the knowledge to better take care of your mind and body. This practice reduces fatigue, lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and provides a better way to regulate stress and anxiety. Taking the time to improve how the body takes in and releases air enables a healthier stress response.
- Inhale deeply
- Exhale with a short burst (as if blowing out a candle). This helps activate your diaphragm.
- Exhale with a long, slow finish to empty the lungs. Breathlessness is from not expelling enough CO2.
- Inhale, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top, instead of taking short sips. Most use a third of their lung capacity.
- Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells.
- Exhale slowly and completely.
- Repeat steps 4 through 6 for five minutes.
- Do this exercise five times a day.