3 Breathing Exercises to Help You Relax in 10 Minutes or Less
The alarm clock didn’t run off this morning, and now you’re running late. You hop into the shower, but the water pressure is so low that you can’t get all the shampoo out of your hair. You have to wear an old shirt because you haven’t had time to drop off the laundry and you hope that no one will notice there’s a small coffee stain on your pants. You can’t find an Uber, so you head down the subway. Of course, there wasn’t enough money on your Metro card, so you missed the first train. You race to the office and barely make it in time, makeup melting and heart racing. It’s only 9:00 AM.
Stress is an epidemic. We know we have too much of it, but we don’t know how to deal with it. You can’t help but laugh when you hear self-proclaimed Zen gurus telling you that you can beat stress completely. The truth is that you can’t. You can, however, control it.
The easiest and most effective way of managing your stress is through meditation. Yes, we know, you probably don’t have time to sit around and think about nothing. Just a second, you little stress balls: there’s a solution, and it will take you only ten minutes to decompress.
Here are three breathing exercise that you can practice almost anywhere and anytime.
Before we jump into teaching you these breathing techniques, it’s important that you keep a few guidelines in mind.
Always make sure that you’re in a comfortable position, with your back straight, either sitting on a chair or the floor. Inhale through your nose and from your diaphragm to get more air into the lungs. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. You should feel the hand placed on your abdomen rise while the other hand moves very little.
Always exhale through the mouth, making sure you push out as much air as possible while contracting the muscles in your abdomen. Additionally, try combining breathing techniques with other relaxation tools, such as music or aromatherapy and see what works best for you.
1. Abdominal Breathing Technique (or Roll Breathing)
How to Do It: Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest and start by observing your body’s movements as you breathe. Envision your lungs filling with air as you take deep, slow breaths. While inhaling, your left hand should go up, and your right hand should remain still. Shoulders must stay relaxed at all times.
Exhale through the mouth, with a whooshing sound as air leaves your body. Practice this exercise daily, for five to ten minutes, to start noticing its relaxation effects.
Why It Works: This simple breathing technique is meant to help those who are just starting out with relaxation exercises. Don’t be surprised if you find controlling your breathing difficult, especially if you’re under a lot of stress. Results take practice, but consider doing this exercise for least a few minutes every day to start experiencing a more relaxed state of mind.
2. Equal Breathing (or Sama Vritti)
How to Do It: Sama Vritti is an ancient pranayama (breathing) practice that consists of deep, regular breaths.
Sit in a comfortable position (preferably a cross-legged one) on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes and give yourself a few moments to notice your natural breathing pattern. Then, while inhaling and filling your lungs with air, slowly start to count to four. Exhale and count to four again. Continue this exercise for a few minutes making sure you match the length of your inhale to the one of your exhale. If you feel confident enough, you can even start trying six or eight counts per breath as you advance with this technique.
Why It Works: Equal breathing helps focus the mind and naturally calms down your nervous system. You can perform this exercise virtually anywhere and anytime to take your mind off daily worries. We recommend you to try it at night, especially if you have a hard time falling asleep. This breathing exercise can distract you from your thoughts and shift your focus.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing (or Nadi Shodhana)
How to Do It: Find a comfortable position, making sure your spine is straight, and place your left hand on your left knee. Take your right hand and use your thumb to close the right nostril and place your ring finger just over your left nostril. Slowly inhale through your left nostril and then close it with your ring finger while very briefly retaining your breath. Open your right nostril and slowly exhale through it. Then start inhaling again through your right nostril; close the right nostril with your thumb and open the left nostril and slowly release your breath. Continue repeating this cycle for at least five to ten times.
Why It Works: Nadi Shodhana means “clearing energy channels,” so the aim of this practice is to create balance by regulating your air flow through the nasal passages. It is a great way to relax and quiet down your thoughts, especially if you’re experiencing nervousness, anxiousness or are feeling very stressed out.
Meditation can be an effective relaxation tool, but you need to practice it regularly if you want to see any results. Do these breathing exercises every day for ten minutes, and you’ll find you are less affected by the stress in your life. Sure, they won’t do your laundry or fix the water pressure, but you’ll no longer get heart palpitations when you miss your bus.