The Profound Power of Breathing
Central to ancient Hindu philosophy was prana, described as vital “airs” or “energies” flowing through the body. Stemming from that belief, yoga was built on pranayama or breath retention.
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Breathing is at the core of ancient (and currently trendy) mindfulness practices, from yoga and tai chi to meditation.
However, studies suggest that breathing exercises alone, derived from those ancient yoga practices, can be good for the body and mind.
It involves filling the lungs to the max and goes by various names like belly or diaphragmatic breathing.
It has been linked to improved cognitive performance, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.
Every relaxation, calming, or meditation technique relies on breathing, which may be the lowest common denominator in all the approaches to calming the body and mind.
Controlled breathing techniques can get one autonomic system under control and in turn affect others (like the heartbeat), alleviate momentary anxiety and longer-term emotional stress, and perhaps even improve physical and cognitive health outcomes.
Normal human breathing at rest should raise the belly, not the chest.
To relax during a particularly stressful moment, take three slow, deep belly breaths to interrupt the fight-or-flight response.
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How it’s done: Inhale for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Once you manage it, you can go up to a c...
When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.
How it’s done: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize.
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Practicing deep “belly breathing” can reduce the stress on the supporting ligaments of the diaphragm and can help relieve side stitches.
Belly breath: Lie down on the floor and place a hand on your belly. Breathe deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, you’re belly breathing. If your chest is moving instead of your stomach, you’re not breathing deeply enough, and need to adjust.
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Even though we have been breathing for all our lives, we can still learn a lot about this most basic instinct.
Quick, shallow, and unfocused breathing may contribute to anxiety, depression, ...
Breathwork is not the same as mindfulness. Mindfulness involves passive observation of the breath, whereas breathwork requires you to actively change the way you breathe.
Breathwork includes ensuring you breath with your diaphragm, rather than the movement of your chest. It will fill your lungs with more air while also slowing the pace of your breathing.
Right breathing can have a profound effect on calming the mind quickly and can act as a speed ramp into the meditation practice by getting you to that place of no-thought.
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