You breathe every day. It’s second nature and not something that’s often thought about. But here’s the thing about the breath—it’s one of the most powerful intrinsic tools we possess. In Sanskrit, breathing is called “Pranayama”, which translates to life force. When you harness the power of your breath, you can achieve benefits for health in mind, body, and spirit. Physiologically, deep breathing sends signals to the brain that induce relaxation and calmness, making it as effective as exercise, meditation, and healthy eating. On top of that, breathing is a sidekick to our lymphatic system which detoxifies the body. Breath keeps blood flowing, which is a necessary step in lymphatic drainage. What’s more, breathing grounds us, allowing our mind to freely focus without distraction.
Here are four easy breathing exercises you can incorporate into your daily rituals.
A simple yet powerful breathing exercise is called box breathing (or four-square breathing), and it resets the breath back to its natural cycle. The technique is simple, and the method is instinctual, making it easily accessible to people of all ages. To box breathe, breathe in through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Release the breath through the nose for a count of four. Then hold the lungs empty for a count of four. This equal rhythm can naturally reduce stress and increase focus. Try four to ten cycles or repeat it as many times as needed, until you feel relaxed.
A powerful practice for restoring balance in mind and body is Nadhi Shodhana Pranayama, also known as “Alternate Nostril Breathing”. The method is often adopted in yoga and meditation to bring peace and rejuvenate the nervous system. This method requires you to sit in a comfortable position with good posture, as you would during meditation. Relax your left hand in your lap. Bring your right hand up to your face and place your index and pointer fingers in between your eyebrows. Take a deep breath in and exhale. On your next inhale, cover your right nostril with your right thumb. Then cover your left nostril with your left ring finger, pause with both nostrils covered, and release your thumb to exhale, keeping your left index finger on your left nostril. Repeat this on the other side, alternating for 5-10 cycles.
Aromatherapy has plenty of healing benefits, with each essential oil providing unique healing properties. Think about lavender for calmness, citrus for invigoration, and frankincense for immunity. When used in conjunction with the breath, you’re delivering these benefits directly to the body, creating a relaxing and therapeutic ritual. This method requires your favourite essential oil that’s safe for topical use. Roll on or drop a few drops into your palms. Rub the essential oils in the palms of your hands. Bring your hands to your face. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and out through your mouth. Repeat as desired.
This next exercise is great for restlessness and lack of sleep. It’s intended to reset your Circadian rhythm, leading to deep relaxation. If its name doesn’t give it away, you could probably guess that like the other methods, this one uses cadence to activate the breath and trigger the nervous system—in this case, stimulating calmness. For this exercise, place the tip of your tongue at the front ridges on the top of your mouth. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold for seven seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle four times, or until you’ve reached peak relaxation.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can always tap into your breath as a powerful tool for calming and regrounding yourself. Who knew we had a built-in system for stress-relief? Use these methods to take care of yourself and share them with others—we could all use a little less stress.