Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”

How it’s done: This one begins with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. Once comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every 1 to 2 seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.

When it works best: When it’s time to wake up, warm up or start looking on the brighter side of things

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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 count of 6.

It calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.

When it works best: Anytime, anyplace — but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed.

Abdominal Breathing Technique
How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure.

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.

Progressive Relaxation

How it’s done: To nix tension from head to toe, close the eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for 2 to 3 seconds each. Start with the feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, rear, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw and eyes — all while maintaining deep, slow breaths.

Dizziness is never the goal. If holding the breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to just a few seconds at most.

How it’s done: Head straight for that “happy place,” no questions asked. With a coach, therapist or helpful recording as your guide, breathe deeply while focusing on pleasant, positive images to replace any negative thoughts.

When it works best: Pretty much anyplace you can safely close your eyes and let go (e.g. not at the wheel of a car).

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RELATED IDEAS

  • Breathing fast can act as a trigger for people with anxiety causing symptoms that often accompany panic attacks, but you can use that to your advantage.
  • When you breathe fast and start to feel symptoms that you normally associate with anxiety, it may help you re-interpret those symptoms in a less threatening way.
  • They become less worrisome because they have a clear cause, the same way an elevated heart rate during exercise doesn’t bother us.
  • And if you can connect anxiety to faulty breathing habits, it means you can change the way you breathe and potentially see some improvement.

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Breathing exercises

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. 

4-7-8 Breathing
Created by Dr. Andrew Weil this is breathing exercise to help you relax: 
  1. First, let your lips part. Exhaling completely through your mouth.
  2. Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to 4.
  3. Then, for 7 seconds, hold your breath.
  4. Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for 8 seconds.

This is one repetition. Try to do at least 4. 

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