Deep Breathing Exercises to Help You Relax

Why are deep breathing exercises so good for you?

"When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still........" (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)

Your breath is your life. Breathing not only supplies vital oxygen to the cells of the body, but the life force, also known as chi or prana, enters the body through the breath.

Unlike many other bodily functions, we are able to consciously control our breathing. And controlling our breath also helps us to control our mind, which in turn affects our body, and our life.

And this is exactly what deep breathing exercises will help you to do.

Some reasons why most of us don't breathe properly:

  • The pressures that accompany our modern lifestyles mean we tend to be stressed and always rushing about. This creates fast and shallow breathing.
  • Being tense or agitated also means we are quick to anger or get emotional, which further inhibits the quality of our breathing.
  • Our sedentary lifestyles don't encourage the deep breathing that comes with physical exertion, and so shallow breathing becomes a habit.
  • Feeling tired and drained of energy also means we are more likely have shallow breathing.
  • Depression tends to create poor breathing habits.

Can you relate to any of these? Then you could surely do with some deep breathing exercises.

When we breathe too shallow, we are only inhaling into our upper chest and using about one-third of our lung capacity, which leads to -

Some of the Negative Effects of Poor Breathing Habits:

  • Our body doesn't receive the optimum amount of oxygen it needs to function at its best.
  • Insufficient oxygen has a major effect on the brain, and so mentally we may feel tired and sluggish, unable to concentrate properly.
  • The breathing process eliminates waste products from the body, so poor breathing can result in toxic build-ups within our cells.
  • The levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide within our bloodstream need to be balanced in order for us to feel well, and this balance is upset by inadequate breathing.
  • The life-force that is the source of our vitality enters the body through our breath. Restricted breathing inhibits our intake of this chi or prana, and we deprive ourselves of our full potential.
  • Over time, our lungs may start to lose some of their function from not being used effectively.

Okay, so getting away from all the negativity, let's look at some positive aspects.

Regular practice of some deep breathing exercises will not only have instant effects upon your mind and body during the exercise, but over time your bad breathing habits will begin to change, and the way you breathe throughout your day will improve.

Benefits of doing Deep Breathing Exercises and Learning to Breathe Well:

  • They provide deep relaxation, thereby helping people deal with stress and anxiety.
  • Your mind chatter will slow down as the mind begins to quieten.
  • You will begin to feel more at peace.
  • Your mood will begin to improve and you will feel more positive.
  • Our energy and vitality increases as we take in more chi/prana.
  • You prevent stress from accumulating to unhealthy levels.
  • You will improve your memory and ability to concentrate.
  • Being more relaxed will improve your sleep quality and help with insomnia.
  • You will create a greater connection between your mind and body, allowing you to "get out of your head."
  • Our breath is our connection to our Source, our inner being and the Universe. When you align yourself with the power of your true self and your Source energy, you really begin to come alive.

Take a moment to check your breathing right now. Are you holding your shoulders tense and breathing into your upper chest? There's a good chance that you are.

So let's get into some deep breathing exercises, and get you feeling more relaxed.

Abdominal Breathing

deep breathing exercises

When you deliberately breathe more deeply and slowly into your abdomen, your body's automatic response is to relax.

Please note that when doing deep breathing exercises, you should never force the breath, and stop if you feel dizzy.

So here are 7 easy steps to some deeply relaxing abdominal breathing:

1. Sit in a comfortable upright position with your back straight. A slumped back will prevent you from breathing into your abdomen. Close your eyes and allow your shoulders to drop and relax. Sit your hands comfortably in your lap or on your thighs.

2. Inhale slowly through the nose, drawing the breath deeply into the bottom of your lungs. As you do this, you should feel your abdomen gently push out naturally. Don't deliberately try and push the abdomen out or it won't be relaxing. If you can't notice your abdomen rising, you can place your hand just below your rib cage and you should notice your hand rise.

3. When you inhale in this way, your chest should only move slightly. Abdominal breathing causes your diaphragm (the muscle at the bottom of the lung cavity) to move downward, and so the muscles around your abdominal cavity push out.

4. When you've taken a full but gentle breath in, hold it for a second or two then begin to breath out gently through your nose (or mouth if you prefer). Make sure that you empty your lungs as much as possible without straining yourself. As you exhale, let your body relax as much as possible and let your arms and legs go limp.

5. Begin to inhale again, repeating this process about ten times. As you breath in and out, try to keep it gentle and relaxed, without trying too hard. Keep your shoulders loose and down, your jaw relaxed and allow your body to "let go". Just be sure to keep your back nice and comfortably straight. Anyway, it's hard to keep a tense body when you do abdominal breathing.

6. If you like, you can count slowly as you inhale and exhale. You will probably get to a count of 4 on each in and out breath.

7. After a bit of practice, you can build up your abdominal breathing sessions to around 5 minutes each, once or twice a day.

Once again, with any deep breathing exercises if you feel dizzy at any time, just breath normally for 20-30 seconds before beginning again.

Pant Like a Dog

Yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But panting like a dog is a great way to do some instant deep breathing.

When you watch a dog pant, you can see their tummy moving up and down. You never see a dog breathing high up into their shoulders.

And, wait for it - this exercise works even better if you let your tongue relax and hang out a little bit. (No you don't have to start drooling!)

So go on, give it a try. Open your mouth slightly, let your throat and tongue relax, and let your tongue fall forward over your bottom lip. Then breathe in and out through the mouth, taking in a good amount of air.

When you pant like a dog in this way, the body's natural response is to breathe deep into the abdomen. It's really hard to breathe high in the chest and raise your shoulders when you pant with your neck relaxed and your tongue hanging down.

Do this for about a minute once or twice a day. After a few days of practising this exercise, begin to pant faster, say one or two pants every second. Once again, if you begin to feel dizzy then stop for a moment.

But a final word of advice - don't do it where anyone can see you, or they might try and scratch your tummy!

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breathing exercise is easy to do and can be done just about anywhere. It has some fantastic benefits, and it will balance the energy between the right and left side of the brain.

Just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing will leave you feeling more calm and clear-headed. It's my favourite of all deep breathing exercises.

I have dedicated a separate page to Alternate Nostril Breathing, so please click here to learn how to do this breathing technique.

Circular Breathing

Some of the benefits of this particular breathing exercise are:

  • Improved oxygen intake, which will increase the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • The cells of your body will receive an oxygen boost.
  • This will improve your energy levels and ability to concentrate.
  • Your levels of stress or anxiety will reduce, and you will feel more relaxed.
  • Your entire body functions more efficiently when it is properly oxygenated.

The circular breathing that I mention here is not the same as that taught to musicians. Rather, this is just the name given to this particular breathing exercise.

How to perform this Circular Breathing Exercise:

1. Sit upright with your back nice and comfortably straight.

2. Breath in through the nose and out through the mouth fairly rapidly. When you first start to practice this exercise, do it more slowly until you get used to it, or you could make yourself rather dizzy.

3. Breath in and out in this way 5 times. if you feel dizzy at all, (and you probably will at first), just stop for a moment then continue more slowly.

4. Do this exercise twice a day.

Please make sure that you only breathe in and out 5 times. Doing more than this may cause the carbon dioxide level in your bloodstream to be too low, and you will feel the negative effects of this, such as dizziness and tingling in the hands. So do not do more than 5 circular breaths.

I hope you've enjoyed these deep breathing exercises.

Looking for some more easy relaxation techniques? Return from Deep Breathing Exercises to Best Ways to Relax

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