Basic Breathwork Techniques to Calm your Mind and Improve your Health

Humans can only survive for a couple of minutes without air to breathe. Our breath is literally our life force, and yet it’s something we all take for granted. Breathwork refers to any type of controlled breathing exercise or technique. Practicing breathwork regularly will lead to improving your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being. The specific benefits vary based on the technique you use, but the general benefits of practicing any type of breathwork are similar. There are many techniques, and I honestly haven’t tried them all, but I am going to share my favorites and include videos for you to practice on your own!

The breathing techniques I frequently use originated in yoga. In yoga, breathwork is referred to as pranayama. Prana is considered to be the universal life force and ayama means control. Pranayama, therefore, means the control of the universal life force through the breath. When prana is high, the mind is positive, calm, and enthusiastic. The goal is always to use controlled breathing to patterns to help regulate your prana.

Research has shown again and again that the regular practice of controlled breathing can decrease the effects of stress on the body, and increase your overall physical and mental health. Breath, when intentionally controlled, is something that can bring us into the present moment and help with increasing overall self-awareness. Since we need breath to survive, our attention has no choice but to focus on it when we are trying to control it. Different techniques, holds, and patterns, all lead to different results and effects on the body.

Overall, the benefits of practicing breathwork on a regular basis include:

  • Calmer, less anxious mind
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved attention and focus
  • Increased energy
  • Increased mood
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Increases Lymph flow
  • Slower aging process
  • Purified and balanced energy channels, which ensures a smooth flow of prana.

Breathwork can be a great alternative to meditation, if you are someone who gets discouraged with meditation due to your wandering mind. You can think of this as “active meditation”. If you have a regular meditation practice, then breathwork can be a great addition to calm your mind leading into your meditation practice.

There are many different ways you can practice controlled breathing, but these methods are a few of my favorites!

Dirga Pranayama (3 Part Breath)

  • Fully oxygenates the body, which decreases stress and anxiety while also reinforcing proper breathing patterns.

How to: Click Here to practice with me!

  1. Sit upright in a cross-legged position, or in a chair. Make sure your posture is good and your spine is erect.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take 3 deep, controlled breaths
  4. Start with inhaling into your belly, starting with filling up your lower back first
  5. Once your belly is full, begin to fill up your middle chest, allowing your rib cage to expand
  6. Once your middle chest is full, begin to finish your inhale by filling up your chest
  7. Pause at the top for a second and then begin to exhale, starting with the chest, middle chest, and finishing with the belly.
  8. Complete for 5-10 rounds or until you feel you are ready to stop

Note: This technique can easily be done anywhere with your eyes open or closed. This makes it the perfect go-to for stressful situations.

Ujjayi (Ocean Breath)

  • Relaxing and energizing breathing technique that brings you into the present moment and makes it easier to focus on your breath.

How to: Click Here to practice with me!

  1. Sit upright in a cross-legged position, or in a chair. Make sure your posture is good and your spine is erect.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take 3 deep, controlled breaths
  4. Constrict the back of your throat to create an audible ocean sound.
  5. Hold this constriction as you breathe in a slow and controlled manner.
  6. Count your breath from 1-10, going back to 1 after you reach 10. Continue for as long as desired

Note: This is the breathing technique is often done throughout a yoga practice, or during timed breathwork.

Kapalabhati (Skull shining breath)

  • Energizing technique used to calm and uplift your mind. Due to the short powerful exhales, this technique is said to cleanse and tone the respiratory system of toxins while purifying, rejuvenating and refreshing the body and mind.

How to: Click Here to practice with me!

  1. Sit upright in a cross-legged position, or in a chair. Make sure your posture is good and your spine is erect.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take 3 deep, 3 part controlled breaths
  4. Inhale halfway
  5. Forcibly contract your abdominals by pulling your belly button to your spine
  6. This should force air out of your nose
  7. The inhale should happen naturally so all you focus on is exhaling.
  8. Complete at least 3 sets of 20-30 exhales, returning to the normal breath between sets

Note: This is considered more of an advanced technique so please practice with care.

Nadi Shodan (alternate nostril breathing)

  • Subtle energy clearing breathing technique used to calm and center your mind. By alternating the nostrils you breathe in and out of, you are harmonizing the right, logical sie of your brain with the left, emotional side of your brain.

How to: Click Here to Practice with me!

  1. Sit upright in a cross-legged position, or in a chair. Make sure your posture is good and your spine is erect.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take 3 deep, controlled breaths
  4. With your right hand, fold your middle and pointer finger down
  5. Place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left
  6. Breathe in your left nostril, while holding your right closed
  7. Hold your left nostril and breathe out through your right
  8. Continue to hold your left nostril and breathe in through your right
  9. Exhale through your left.
  10. Continue with this pattern for 3-5 minutes without restricting your breath, ending with an exhale on the left

Note: To advance your practice try using a 5 count for the inhale, exhale, and hold at the top of the breath.

The demo videos I have provided are just that. Short videos that explain the breathing techniques, and guide you through a short practice. If you are new to breathwork, these demo videos may be the perfect length for you! If that’s the case, feel free to use them daily to guide you through your practice! If you are choosing to practice on your own, I recommend using a timer so you aren’t distracted by the thought of what time it is.

Through practicing breathwork on a regular basis, you will learn how to use your breath to control your emotions instead of allowing your emotions to control your breath. Considering we are in the midst of a global pandemic, I would say this is a pretty important skill to learn. =]

Stay safe, healthy, and keep breathing!

Note: ALWAYS consult your healthcare provider before trying any new breathing techniques. If at any point you feel lightheaded, or uncomfortable, simply stop the practice and begin to breathe normally

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