The food we eat and the way we breathe are the primary effectors on our overall health and lifestyle. In today’s time, we see the western world going crazy over yoga and meditation for recovery. People are overworked, stressed and all they need is a breath of fresh air and a delicious piece of dark chocolate, literally!
Then the way we breathe becomes all the more important. Learning the art of breathing can be a real-time investment for the fate of our physiological and prevention of mental health.
The American Heart Association, in a study, recommends breathing as a safe alternative to diet and medicines to reduce blood pressure.
Let us look at some breathing exercises and techniques which can be done seated on your office chair, or standing in a kitchen after a stressful day, or just waiting in your car, waiting for the traffic to clear.
Kapalbhatti (the detoxifying breathing therapy)
- Sit comfortably in a relaxing position
- Deeply inhale.
- As you exhale, pull your stomach inwards. You can use your hand to feel as your abdominal muscles contract.
- A Kapalbhatti round includes 20 such cycles of breathing.
Precaution: People who have undergone abdominal surgeries or women after delivery should avoid this exercise for a few months.
Anulom Vilom (breathing with alternate nostrils)
A very easy to do and powerful breathing technique for the immunity and the respiratory system. It keeps stress at bay and is very effective to recover after surgery.
- Sit in Sukhasana with a straight back and hands on the side.
- Say, if you inhale from the left nostril first, close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly till you reach your lungs’ highest capacity.
- Exhale slowly from the right nostril
- Repeat the same with your other nostril to complete this technique.
- Do it for a period of 5 minutes every day or to a count of 60.
- It would be great to practice this asana at any time of the day.
- It is a very basic and relaxing breathing technique.
- Sit down or lie back in a position of your comfort.
- Place one hand on the belly, below your ribs and the other on the chest.
- Take a deep breath. Your chest should not move, but as you exhale your belly will bring your hand outwards.
- Exhale through your mouth and you will produce a whistle-like sound. As your belly moves inwards, push the hand on your belly to exhale all the air out.
- Repeat this to a count of 3 to 5.
This is a good breathing exercise that helps with muscle stiffness problems and relieves back pain. It is also useful to de-clog your passages early in the morning.
- Stand upright. Then, slowly bend forward and let your hands dangle near the floor.
- Stay in the position and inhale deeply.
- Hold your breath till you stand upright again.
- Exhale again after bending in the earlier position.
- You will feel very refreshed and focussed after this exercise.
This kind of breathing enables you to use your lungs to its full capacity. Also, it helps in breathing consciously and focus on your breathing pattern. To get started with this regime, lie down and bend the knees.
- Place your right hand on your chest and the left on your belly. Notice your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- Practice breathing in such a way that the air is filled in your lower lungs and the hand resting on your belly moves upwards while you inhale, and the one on the chest remains still. This can be done eight to ten times.
- Now, inhale into your lower lungs so that the hand resting on the chest goes up while the hand resting on the belly falls a little as your belly is lowered.
- You may experience a whooshing sound as you exhale. Be careful to inhale with your nose and exhale with your mouth. Practice this for 5 to 7 minutes. The rhythmic rise and fall of your chest and belly will feel like waves.
- You will feel relaxed and stress-free at the end of this ritual.
The way you breathe affects your whole body. When you breathe deeply, the brain is signaled to calm down and relax. The brain sends out a message to your body, in turn, to take it easy. As a result, one may experience lowered blood pressure and a lowered heart rate and breathing rate.
This is the way that stress leaves the body and you enter a state of calmness.
The best thing is that one does not need special equipment and fancy tools to do these exercises. It is free of cost and very effective. You just need a place of solitude and peace.