How often did you hear growing up… “Calm down, just take a deep breath”? For my siblings and I these words were certainly very prevalent in our home, along with “if you don’t stop, my head is going to spin around!” but that’s an article for another time! Ha.
Anyways, our parents, teachers, baby sitters etc. were on to something when they would try to calm us down through these deep breaths. I’m sure my mom had no idea that she was ultimately teaching us how to practice breath work, helping us fix our HPA Axis, and impacting our stress hormone response, but regardless, she was certainly on to something. Breath work is one of the most simple yet impactful ways to help individuals lower their stress level and furthermore, Herbet Benson, a Harvard researcher, even concluded that breathing can change the expression of genes, claiming that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind, use the mind to change your body, and directly alter gene expression. Whoa.
We’d like to teach you some very simple breath work techniques that you can practice at your desk, in your car or standing in the kitchen while your toddler is screaming to help you lower your stress levels.
1. Box Breathing
This breathing technique is often used by the Navy Seals in very high stress situations but can also be applied to our every day lives. Maybe you receive some bad news at work, maybe you’re about to give blood and don’t love needles, maybe you’re trying to survive 3 minutes in a cryo sauna or ice bath… regardless, this technique is perfect. The way it works is you close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for a 4 count. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Then hold your breath for 4 seconds before you take your next inhale. You might feel as if you’re drowning while you are holding your breath after the 4 second exhale but as your stress dissipates and your nervous system calms down, those 4 seconds will feel less drowning-like.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This technique again is great for helping cope with a stressful work day or a traffic jam. It goes like this… press your thumb on your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Breathe out through your left nostril and then use a different finger to press your left nostril closed and breathe in through your right nostril and out again through the right. Repeat until you feel yourself calm down.
3. Kite String Trick
Paul Chek, a world famous holistic health coach, teaches the importance of belly breathing. Many of us, especially in today’s vain society, consciously or subconsciously seem to always been contracting our abdominals. When our abs are contracted, it is very hard to take a deep breath that comes from the belly. For this technique, there is no counting or breath holding, you simply tie a string around your body right at your belly button. With each breath, focus on tightening the string by allowing your belly to expand with your breath. This will help move you away from shallow chest breathing to deeper belly breaths.
4. Sitali Breathing aka. “Taco breathing”
This type of breathing is also calling the “Cooling Breath” because it helps bring you into a state of calm helping you stay focused and centered. To perform this technique, curl your tongue into a taco shape (20-25% of you genetically won’t be able to do this and that is OKAY, opt for one of the other breathing techniques listed above). Breathe in through your mouth using your rolled tongue as a straw. Hold the top of the breath for a 1 count and then exhale through your nose. Repeat for a few breaths to experience the state of calm this breathing technique provides.
Go give these a try and let us know what you think!