Breathing has always been synonymous with life.
Breath is the only function you can perform consciously as well as unconsciously.
Knowing how to perform simple breathing techniques can help lower your blood pressure, calm a racing heart, or help your digestive system without taking drugs.1
Abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, changes the oxygenation levels in your body as well as strengthening the diaphragm. Many people feel calmer and more centred afterwards, and it may help to reduce negative emotions. Since it can be practiced anytime, anywhere, for free, and has been associated with a host of positive physical effects, why not try it today?2
So what are these techniques and how do I start? As with everything it depends on what you are looking for and your preferred way of learning.
If you can start on your own, sit or lay comfortably. Put one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your abdomen, just under your ribcage. Take note of your current breath pattern. When you are ready breathe in fully for 4 or 5 counts, then breathe out fully for your chosen 4 or 5 counts and repeat.
Even one or two abdominal breathes can be helpful and the Institute of Functional Medicine advises up to 5.
Visualisations or mantras can help with breathing exercises, and there are many free apps available.
Breathing techniques can potentially give you energy or help to calm you.
For energy a breath pattern of inhaling through the nostrils for 6 counts, exhaling for 2 counts can be effective. Some people can even replace morning coffee with an energy breath session.
Another choice could be alternate nostril breathing. This can be done by placing your ring finger and thumb near each nostril. Close one nostril using your ring finger and inhale slowly and deeply. Alternate the closed nostril (release with your ring finger, close with your thumb) and exhale slowly and fully. Inhale slowly and fully through the same nostril. Then alternate nostrils again, exhale, inhale. And change again and repeat. This may not be possible for people with sinus issues.
For calm 4-7-8 breath can be wonderful. Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8.
Box breathing can also be useful. Inhaling for a count of, holding for 5, exhaling for 5, holding for 5 and repeat.
Depending on your preferred learning style videos are available on YouTube detailing all these and more. Or there are free apps available which can teach styles of breathing.
Oak is one such app that teaches the breath patterns and has a useful guided relaxation using 4-7-8 breath.3
Note that if light headedness occurs please discontinue the breathing practice.
1 Andrew Weil, MD Breathing: An Introduction https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-an-introduction/
2 Institute of Functional Medicine, Breathing Techniques to Soothe the Soul