Yes, we are already at week 3. It’s all about mental health this week. Besides journaling each day, I decided to try some breathing exercises. Controlled breathing can lower blood pressure, but do they really calm your mind and ease stress like they claim to do? I’m going to find out.
To start off, I googled “breathing exercises.” Interestingly enough, a 1-minute breathing exercise provided by Google was the first result. It looks a little something like this:
The circle grows and shrinks as you breathe in and out. The connection between the breath and the size of the circle was pretty cool. Try it out for yourself!
Here are a couple other exercises I tried (all from Greatist):
Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing)
Why: Increase focus. Reduce stress. Calm the mind.
When most effective: Before bed.
How: Breathe in for 4 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds. All breaths should go through your nose. Eventually reach a point where you breathe in for 6-8 counts per breath.
I found myself focused on the count of the breath, except when an airplane flew by. But I did find myself wondering, is it over yet? But maybe that’s because I didn’t do this right before bed.
Why: Reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
When most effective: Before a stressful event.
How: Place one hand on the chest and another one the belly. Take 6 to 10 deep breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day, making sure the diaphragm inflates, not the chest.
It was hard breathing with the diaphragm. I learned that I have always used my chest to breathe and it was difficult to change that. I also found myself running out of space to breathe in more air.
Why: Relax all muscles of the body.
When most effective: Anytime, anywhere.
How: Tense and relax each muscle for 2-3 seconds all while breathing deep, slow breaths through the nose. Start with the feet and gradually move up through the body.
This one was nice! It was satisfying to relax the muscles after tensing them and moving throughout the body. 10/10. Would recommend.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Why: Helps focus and energize. Unite left and right sides of brain.
When most effective: When concentration is needed.
How: Hold right thumb over right nostril and breathe in deeply. Close off left nostril with right ring finger at height of breath. Exhale and inhale through right nostril, then close right nostril and breathe out through left nostril. Continue the pattern.
This was quite relaxing as well. It’s easier to inhale and exhale deeply with one nostril than with both apparently. I actually did feel energized after this exercise as well.
Why: Helps you put where you want to be.
When most effective: Anytime in a quiet place.
How: Use a therapist, coach, or a youtube video and let them guide you. I tried it with this video.
The combination of the voice and the music was quite soothing. I did this in a dark room and I think that definitely helped. As for the visualization part, I don’t think I was focused enough to really follow his instructions. But if I have time later, I may do this again, with another video.
Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath)
Why: Gather energy. Wake up brain.
When most effective: After waking up.
How: Start with long and slow inhale, then a quick exhale from the lower belly. Try to do one of these every one to two seconds for 10 breaths.
This one was not only quick, but it was also fun! I also felt more energy from this exercise than the alternate nostril breathing.