Breathing Exercises for Better Sleep & Stress Relief and Health
When life throws us curveballs, sometimes the best thing to do is take a few deep breaths. Not only is it good for our mental health, but breathing exercises can help us sleep better and improve our overall physical health. Here, we’ve outlined eight breathing exercises that can help you relieve stress, enhance sleep, and promote relaxation.
1. Abdominal Breathing Technique
This exercise is designed to help you even out your breath and train your body to slow down and take deeper breaths. To complete this exercise, lie on your back and put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. As you inhale through your nose, focus on filling up your belly with air. Hold the breath for a count of four, and then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of four. With each inhalation, focus on making the breath long, deep, and even.
2. Rolling Breath
This exercise is especially helpful for tension relief. To complete this exercise, sit up comfortably and place one hand on your chest, one hand on your stomach. Inhale through your nose for three counts and then exhale for a count of six. As you exhale, imagine your breath rolling down from your chest to your stomach. Repeat for several minutes, focusing on the rolling inhale and exhale.
3. Four-Square Breath
The Four-Square Breath technique is a great way to regulate your breathing, which can help you to find a state of relaxation. To complete this exercise, sit up comfortably and close your eyes if that works best for you. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Inhale for four counts, pause in the center of the breath for four counts, exhale for four counts and pause before the next inhalation for four counts. Complete four cycles of this exercise for an effective calming effect.
4.Alternate Nostril Breath
Alternate nostril breath is a traditional yogic practice specifically used to reduce stress and tension. To complete this exercise, sit up comfortably and use your right thumb to press lightly on your right nostril while inhaling through the left. Pause and then switch sides, using your right ring finger to press the left nostril shut while exhaling through your right nostril. Repeat for several times, and then switch to inhaling through the right and exhaling through the left.
5. Lion’s Breath
Lion’s Breath is a yoga-based breathing exercise that can help reduce stress, tension, and anxiety. To do this exercise, sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and place your hands on your knees. Inhale and open your eyes wide with a deep breath, sticking your tongue out and saying “ha” on an exhale. Repeat for several times, and then relax your facial muscles and take a few deep breaths.
6. Skull Shining Breath
This breathing technique, also known as Kapalabhati, is a more advanced technique and is often used to invigorate the body. To complete this exercise, sit up straight, with your shoulders relaxed and your eyes closed. Quickly and powerfully exhale through your nose, sinking into the belly and then passively inhale without any effort. Focus on making the exhale more powerful than the inhale. Repeat this pattern for 30 to 60 seconds and then relax with some slow, deep breaths.
7. Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire is a popular pranayama practice used to increase energy and release tension. To complete this exercise, sit upright on the floor or in a chair. Relax your shoulders, and close your eyes if that works best for you. Start to inhale and exhale quickly through the nose, making sure that the inhalations and exhalations are even and consistent. Be sure to maintain your focus, and after a few minutes, relax with some slow, deep breaths.
8. Nadi Shodhana/Alternating Breath
Nadi Shodhana is a more advanced yogic breathing technique designed to promote relaxation. To complete this exercise, sit up comfortably and close your eyes. Use your right index finger and middle finger to close one nostril at a time, alternating sides with each inhalation and exhalation. Keep your breathing slow and evenly paced; inhale and exhale through the nose for five to ten minutes.
When used regularly, these eight breathing exercises can help you improve your sleep, manage your stress, reduce anxiety, and promote overall physical and mental health. Make sure to take some time for yourself each day to practice breathing exercises and focus on your wellbeing.