One of the simplest ways you can reduce stress is through breathing exercises.
I like to teach this easy routine because you can do it anytime, anywhere, with zero equipment.
Many times, when we are stressed, we don’t have a friend to talk to, a yoga mat, a book or a TV or radio to distract us. We only have ourselves and our inner strength to rely on.
At times like this, we can simply focus on our breathing and achieve a profound degree of inner peace simply by expanding our lung capacity and engaging in tried-and-true yogic exercises to calm the mind.
I call it “EIGHT MINUTES TO INNER PEACE.”
Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position.
If you are especially fatigued or you are having great difficulty with breathing, you may want to do the first three breathing exercises lying down.
If I have a client who has severe difficulty breathing, I ask my client to lie on his belly, his head turned to the side. In this way, you can feel your belly pushing against the floor and learn to breathe by expanding your belly against the pressure of the floor.
Be sure to sit up for the last five breathing exercises so that you can lengthen your spine and use your full lung capacity.
An important note on sitting: If you are actually sitting comfortably, your mind will be able to quiet down more easily.
In yoga, the most stable sitting position is called swastikasana. You sit either on the floor or on a cushion, such as a yoga bolster of zafu. You cross your shin bones. It’s a great idea to take a blanket, roll it up length-wise, and place the blanket underneath your shins and wrap it around your knees. You will find that you can sit in this position with your pelvis stable. You will know when you are in the right position for your body when your eyes begin to soften.
- ONE MINUTE: Focus on lengthening your inhale. Notice how there is a natural pause at the top and bottom of the breath. In yoga, this is called Viloma 1.
- ONE MINUTE: Focus on lengthening your exhale. Notice the pause at the end of the inhale and the end of your exhale. In yoga, we call this Viloma 2.
- ONE MINUTE: Focus on making your inhale and exhale equally long and deep.
- ONE MINUTE: Bellows Breath, also called Bhastrika. Inhale into your belly and exhale forcibly by contracting your solar plexus.
- ONE MINUTE: Breath of Fire, also known as Kapalabhati. Inhaling and exhaling rapidly, pump your diaphragm. Your inhale and exhale will happen naturally.
- ONE MINUTE: Alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadhi Sodhana. With the left hand, make a mudra by placing your thumb together with the first two fingers. Inhale through your right nostril. With the thumb of your right hand, close the right nostril. Exhale through your left nostril. With the ring finger of your right hand, close the left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril. Use your thumb to close your right nostril. Exhale through the left nostril. Use your ring finger to close the left. Repeat.
- ONE MINUTE: Bumblebee breath, also known as Bhramari. Place your pointer finger and middle finger on your forehead. Place your thumbs on your ear flaps and close your ears. Place your ring finger lightly on your closed eyelids. Little finger rests on your cheekbones. Make a humming sound like a bee.
- ONE MINUTE: Ocean breath, also called Ujjayi. Open your mouth, relax your jaw. Inhale and make the sound of the ocean in the back of your throat. Exhale and make the sound of the ocean. Close your lips and continue making the sound of the ocean.
I recommend that you complete your breathing exercises with meditation, either lying down or sitting. You will notice your mind has naturally drifted into a more blissful state and find it relatively easy to meditate afterwards.
The benefits of this routine include:
1. More energy.
2. Calm mind.
3. Reduced depression and anxiety.
4. Clear thinking.
5. Deep relaxation.