Our ability as humans to breath in and out each and every day is a beautiful thing. The breath is incredible when it comes to sustaining us, and is even known to be a powerful force when it comes to managing stressful times. Breath practices are something that can help to change our moods and even our emotions.
Why Do Breath Practices Work?
Breath practices are shown to work simply because of the science behind them. The nervous system is linked directly to the breath which means someone who is healthy and relaxed will have respiratory sinus arrhythmia. The heart rate will be somewhat elevated when they inhale and then slightly depressed when they exhale.
You wouldn’t normally think about your breath, because you have to do it involuntarily in order to stay alive. However, when we focus on our breathing and take part in things like breath practices, we can influence our bodies physical ability to alleviate stress, which ultimately helps our mental side. It can even help to keep stress from ever happening in the first place.
We’ve put together five of our favorite breath practices that can help to soften the parasympathetic nervous system and help you practice mindfulness in the process.
Humming Bee’s Breath (Bhramari)
The first of our breath practices we will discuss is humming bee’s breath, or Bhramari. Bhramari is known as the goddess of bees, which is where this one gets its name!
The breath is meant to mimic the humming buzz of a bee’s wings. This can be incredibly soothing and can stimulate the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is positively stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This has a very calming effect on the body and therefore the mind.
To practice humming bee’s breath, get comfortable in a seated or lying down position. Inhale through your nose, keep your mouth closed, and exhale to release a steady humming sound. Do this until you have fully exhaled all of the air out. Continue inhaling and exhaling while making the humming sound.
Diaphragmatic breath is another one of our breath practices we love for stimulation of the vagus nerve. As it influences the parasympathetic nervous system, this practice can help to slow down the heart rate and can even help to stabilize blood pressure.
This one works because as you enter a state of deep relaxation, your diaphragm takes on most of the breathing work – it’s the main muscle for relaxed breath after all! You can help get yourself into a relaxed state by controlling the diaphragm and taking deep breaths.
You’ll start by lying down on your back and planting your feet on the floor with bent knees. Take a deep breath in through your nose and allow your abdomen to fill with air underneath your hand. Take your exhale slow and start to feel your hand drop lower towards your spin as the air leaves.
Equal/Square Breath (Sama Vritti)
Equal or square breath is an incredibly effective breath practice. It gets its name from the breath being a square, or equal parts.
It’s up to you how you would like to count square or equal breath, but it has been known to be powerful in slowing down the breath, regulating it, and ultimately stimulating the vagus nerve. As you structure your breathing into equal parts you can slow down the fluctuations of your mind.
For this one, you’ll start in any comfortable position of your choice. It could be standing, sitting or lying down. You’ll inhale and count to four and then hold your breath at the top of your inhale for another count of four. Count to four again as you exhale and hold your breath at the bottom of the exhale for another count of four.
You can increase or decrease your count as you go, just be sure each one stays equal throughout the practice.
Mindfulness of Breathing
This might be the simplest out of the breath practices we will discuss, but it’s an incredible way to help regulate and alleviate your stress. The idea is that you stay mindful of the breath with observance, while also keeping it as natural as possible.
Start this one in a comfortable position and then listen to the natural flow of your breath in and out. You might think about being aware of your space and where the air enters and exits from your body. As you observe your breath and your surroundings, you become more mindful and a lot more relaxed.
You can observe your breath for as long or as little as you like.
The channel cleansing technique is great for balancing what is known as the two major energy channels in the body: pingala and ida nadis. To balance them you practice alternate nostril breathing which helps to create equilibrium.
Once again, you’ll start in a comfortable position of your choice. Put your right thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril. Inhale with a normal deep breath and then exhale it all out.
Before you take your second deep inhale, press your thumb down on your right nostril to close it so you only inhale through your left nostril. Before you exhale that breath out, press your finger into your left nostril to close it off and release your thumb to let your exhale out of your right nostril only. Continue switching from side to side.
Utilize Breath Practices for Better Stress Management
It’s amazing the ability to better manage our stress is in our very own hands. The fact that we can consciously control it means we have an incredible resource at our fingertips anytime and anywhere.
Stress is something everyone has to deal with from time to time, but stress that becomes more constant is something no one should have to suffer through.
We all breathe each and every single day, so it only makes sense we practice a little bit of mindfulness and be intentional with our breath in order to help regulate and alleviate our stress. Even just a few minutes a day could make a big difference in helping you to be present and gradually help you to achieve a better state of well-being.