Relieve stress with these simple breathing exercises

Relieve stress with these simple breathing exercises



Most of us don’t pay much attention to our breathing: It’s essential to our existence, but we tend to take it for granted. Without us even realizing it, our breathing patterns can change as a natural response to our environment, depending on our health, stress levels and even emotions.


But what happens when we breathe with purpose?


Breathwork has recently become so popular that Gwyneth Paltrow dedicated a whole episode to it on her Netflix series, The Goop Lab. The show highlights various techniques, including breathwork, to overcome mental and physical obstacles. However, breathwork dates back to early Hindu yogic breathing practices known as Pranayama. Prana in Sanskrit translates to “vital life force,” while Yama means “to control.”


Modern science shows that breathwork can transform your health, and the best part is that it’s something anyone can do anytime, for free. Here’s what you should know and how to try it at home.



What is breathwork?

Breathwork is essentially controlled breathing where you intentionally regulate the flow of your breathing patterns to change your mental, emotional and physical state. In every breathing exercise, you will be asked to become aware of your breath and how it makes you feel. Its purpose is to create a balance between the mind and body. There are multiple breathwork techniques that you can try, and each one has a specific effect on your body.



What are the benefits of breathwork?

If you are looking to incorporate new daily habits to help ease stress, anxiety or improve your overall well-being, breathwork may be what you are looking for. People often practice breathwork exercises to help promote mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

According to one study, breathwork can improve cognitive performance and reduce stress in otherwise healthy adults. The same study found that controlled breathing can potentially help reduce health issues associated with chronic stress.

Similarly, a systematic review that analyzed eight studies on the effects of breathwork on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease concluded that patients with COPD who practiced pursed-lip breathing had better endurance during physical activity.


Slow, paced breathing has been linked to:

  • Improved mood
  • Greater alertness and vigor
  • Increased relaxation
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Reduced symptoms of anger


ALSO READ: Effects of stress on single parents




The 4-7-8 breath: For when you’re feeling stressed

The 4-7-8 breathing pattern was designed by Andrew Weil, M.D., and is known for being the “relaxing breath.” It’s a simple yet effective technique for de-stressing that consists of inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for seven counts, then exhaling for eight counts. Many people use this particular technique to relieve anxiety and attain better sleep.


Weil states on his website that “practicing a regular, mindful breathing exercise can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”


How to practice

The first thing you want to do is place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth, and sit in an upright position.


Then, follow these steps in the cycle of one breath:

1. With your mouth closed, inhale through your nose to a count of four.

2. Hold your breath for seven counts.

3. Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound for eight seconds.

4. Repeat steps one to three for a total of four breath cycles.



About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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