4 Simple Ways to Harness the Power of Deep Breathing

Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress, improve clarity and focus, remove toxins, provide energy, and much more.

Feb 16, 2018
Portrait of smiling brunette young woman enjoying yoga.

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Whenever a loved one, friend, or coworker seems stressed out and on the edge, one of the first tips to be suggested is “take a deep breath.”

It's one of those sentences that has all the right intention, but is easily discarded as a set phrase. The truth is, deep breathing does have incredibly powerful benefits for our bodies, minds, and souls, and can even transform our day completely. Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress, improve clarity and focus, remove toxins, provide energy, and much more.

How is it, that something so simple and intuitive can also be so therapeutic and advantageous?

Part of the magic is just that - breathing is essential. We can live without food for weeks, without water for days, and without breathing for mere minutes. It’s a daily act that we take completely for granted. By providing our cells with oxygen, breathing, in fact, fuels our entire body. That is why breathing techniques that maximize the power of inhaling and exhaling, have been practiced for thousands of years.

These 4 breathing techniques that can improve your mood, and leave you feeling more connected, calm, and confident. The kicker? They are simple to pull off and cost nothing at all.

1. ALTERNATE-NOSTRIL BREATHING

This technique is deemed the mother of breathing techniques (or pranayamas) by many yogis, and helps to provide a connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The technique involves inhaling through one nostril, while you constrict air flow to the other nostril, holding the inhale for several seconds, and then exhaling through the alternate nostril, while constricting air flow to the first nostril. Check out this video for details. Alternate-nostril breathing can be done just about anywhere and anytime.

2. KAPALABHATI PRANAYAMA

Kapalabhati is a powerful technique that can cleanse the body of excess toxins and waste, and remove stomach fat as well. It is best to do in the morning, on an empty stomach, and preferably outside. Sit comfortably with your spine tall. This is a nostril exercise, so all instructions are intended solely for breaths in and out of your nose. Start by exhaling completely, inhaling half-way, and then in a quick and forceful way, exhale, while also pulling your navel towards your spine.  The inhale is soft and passive, while the exhale is active, short, and quick. This technique is not recommended for those who are pregnant, have issues around blood pressure, or have heart conditions. Check out this video for details.

3. DEEP LONG BREATHING

This technique, often practiced in Kundalini yoga, can be practiced sitting up with a straight spine or laying down. This technique involves very slowly inhaling breath through your nose to fill your lungs and stomach as much as possible. The key is to focus on expanding or inflating your stomach as much as possible, holding it there for as long as you can, and then very slowly exhaling and moving your stomach back in. This technique can balance PH, increase circulation, stimulate endorphins, and increases feelings of peace, calm, and confidence.

4. VISUALIZING

With every full inhale we take, we provide the body with the vital life energy. When we use our minds to guide that energy we add another rich and powerful layer to our breathing. Visualizing light and healing, for example, and guiding our breath to a certain area in our body that we want to focus on, unites the power of oxygen with the power of our minds. This way, we can literally tell our breath what we want it to do (heal, love, calm) where we want it to go (neck, arms, brain) and even what we want it to look like (gold or white light).

These are just four of the many ways we can integrate valuable breathing techniques into our daily lives. The most important element, however, is that we find something that speaks to us, that can be applied daily, and that leaves us feeling calm, strong, and renewed. Anytime we fill our lungs and stomachs with air we have the opportunity to do this, which means we can apply proper breathing while walking, driving, sitting in class, or at the office.

Take a moment to connect to your very own life-force. Take a moment to breathe.

HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.

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