Breathing exercises

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.

January can be a rushed time of year – catching up after a break over the holiday period, new year’s resolutions, struggling with weather etc.  Sometimes you might feel like the Red Queen, running faster and faster to stay in the same spot!  Breathing exercises are a simple, free way to take a moment to calm and gather your thoughts.

Despite seeming so simple, breathing exercises may relieve symptoms of stress, lower blood pressure and even help boost your immune system.  In “Reasons To Stay Alive” the author, Matt Haig says, “So many anxiety symptoms – dizziness, pins and needles, tingling – are directly related to shallow breathing“.  These symptoms in themselves can cause you to be stressed or anxious, and the value of breathing exercises is to break that cycle.

As always, before trying any new health or exercise regime, check with a doctor first.

There are a number of breathing exercises available. You may want to combine them with other forms of meditation, such as mindfulness or other grounding exercises.

A quiet and calm places required in which to do your breathing exercises.  This may seem quite a task, but it is worth making the effort to find or otherwise make such a place and time.  A breathing exercise can take less than a minute – that’s plenty time for three deep and slow breaths.  You can do this while queuing, safely parked in the car, at your desk or even in the loo if you need to!

One of may favourite effective breathing exercises is “7/11”.  Breathe slowly in for the count of seven, and out for the count of eleven.  Don’t force it, let it feel natural.  You may end up with a different count, which suits you better.  That’s fine.

Some people like to visualise using models like this square breathing pattern.

If you’d like something more dynamic, @nathanwpyle has some very beautiful breathing animations on his Instagram.  For example this one, this one and this one.

Try spending the next week taking some time to do some of these exercises.  See if you notice any differences.  You might like to journal your experiences.  Breathing exercises won’t change the situation around you, but as I described above they could have health benefits for you.  These health benefits can make you feel stronger, calmer and more able to cope with what is happening around you.