How do you deal with stress? Hit the gym? Get outdoors? Grab the nearest glass and bottle of wine? You may want to consider breath control exercises, a secret that Buddhists, yogis, and those who practice meditation have known for years. Now, we have science to back it up.
How Breath Control Exercises Help You To Relax
Daily stress is an unavoidable part of our lives. Our jobs, families, relationships, traffic, money – so many things that pile up on our shoulders day after day. While, of course, you feel these stresses mentally, the chronic stress response they trigger on your body has a major impact on your physical health. Breath control exercises are one of the best things you can do to counter that. These exercises trigger the relaxation response in the body, helping you calm down from the inside out. (1)
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing is the breathing technique used in most meditation practices. It involves deep belly breathing to strengthen your diaphragm muscles, which help you to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing has been known to (2):
- Reduce the effects of cortisol on your body
- Lower your heart rate and blood pressure
- Improve core muscle stability
- Increases your capacity for exercise and helps to avoid injury
- Helps cope with PTSD
How To Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anywhere, however, it is most effective when practiced in a calm, comfortable, quiet environment. Follow these steps to learn how (2):
- Find a flat, comfortable place to either sit or lie down on your back.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breath in through your nose for two seconds, allowing the air to pass through your nostrils all the way down to your stomach. You should feel your stomach expand. Your stomach should be moving while your chest remains relatively still.
- Position your lips as if you are about to drink from a straw.
- Press gently on your stomach and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
- Repeat several times until you begin to feel relaxed.
2. The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Not only does this technique help to reduce anxiety, but it may also be useful when you are having trouble falling asleep. (3)
- Fully breath out, completely emptying your lungs of air.
- Breath in quietly through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Purse your lips and exhale powerfully through your mouth, making a “wooshing” sound for eight seconds.
- Repeat four times.
3. Rib-Stretch Breathing
This technique is done in the standing position and is easy to use when you need to release some nerves before a big presentation or when you simply feel a wave of anxiety coming on. (2)