3 Breathing Exercises for Stressful Times
You, my friend, are a lightworker, spreading love and high vibrational energy in your heart, your home and in the world.
And we need each other now to rise up in wisdom, calm and compassion. Souls on deck.
As the stress of an unknown future swirls around us like storm clouds, let’s remember that we have within us a mysterious power to calm our mind, soothe our soul and rejuvenate our spirit for the good of all.
And this power is so simple that we take it for granted.
Just breathe. Ahh.
Pranayama, or breathing techniques, is one of many tools that can lead us toward calm and perspective when these very virtues seem so far away.
In the Yoga Sutras, pranayama is the fourth limb of spiritual advancement on the path to enlightenment. In other words, superhero status.
It is the centerpiece of meditation, and a bridge between the inner world of the divine and the outer world of our humanity.
Deep breathing carries with it countless benefits, among them lowering heart rate and blood pressure, managing depression, anxiety and sleeplessness, oxygenating and purifying our blood and helping us to relax by lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone, cortisol.
It’s not a cure-all for all of our issues, but we become less attached to the drama of it when we are healthy, centered and calm.
Divine wisdom, guidance and intuition rise to the surface when we take the time to relax the body, quiet the mind and connect with the soul.
As part of our daily spiritual practice, (for more on beginning a spiritual practice see My Daily Spiritual Practice and Starting the Day in a Positive Way), we can add breathing exercises whenever we feel overwhelmed, tense, or off-center.
Lots of the time, right?
I’ve been setting my phone timer for every hour while I work. When it rings, I shoot up a prayer for the health and wellness of all beings, and for assistance with what I'm working on at that moment. This is followed by a few minutes of breathing exercises. I return to my page refreshed, relaxed, clear, and hopeful.
The benefits trickle down to all other parts of our life, including our health, our relationships, our connection with our higher wisdom and our ability to show compassion to ourselves and all beings.
All that when we just breathe.
Here are three beginning practices that help keep us on the path of wisdom, joy and peace.
1. SIX IN SIX OUT - DEEP & SLOW
This is my go-to for simply relaxing before meditation practice or anytime during the day when stress creeps in. It also works well while waiting in line, cooking, and in traffic:
Breathing through your nose, inhale to a slow count of six. Exhale while counting slowly to six. Repeat.
TIPS FOR GOING DEEPER
Imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart center with golden light.
Imagine the golden light filling your body with healing on the inhale, and send healing light to others on the exhale.
Use your fingers to count ten breath cycles.
If you are in a quiet space, close your eyes or look out a window at nature for a more meditative effect.
Take it slow and easy. This is a gift of peace to yourself and others.
2. ABDOMINAL BREATHING
When we are anxious, we tend toward shallow rapid breaths taken high up in the chest. Breathing into the belly can be immediately grounding, calming and healing. This exercise will serve to refresh and soften mind, body and soul.
With shoulders relaxed and slightly back, breathe in deeply through your nose and fill your belly with air as if it were a balloon. Exhale through your mouth as if you are gently blowing out a candle, drawing the abdomen in and up to expel all of the air. Repeat.
TIPS FOR GOING DEEPER
This exercise can be practiced standing, sitting or lying down.
Place a hand on your abdomen for a more mindful experience of the expansion on the inhalation and the release of air on the exhalation.
If you get lightheaded, pause and try again later. You can build up gradually to more repetitions as your diaphragm gets stronger.
3. MANTRA BREATHING - INHALE PEACE, EXHALE STRESS
You may have seen this one in the pages of Every Day Spirit. Floating words over the breath cycle is a powerful way to plant seeds of calm and peace in your mind, body and soul.
In this exercise, the exhalation is longer than the inhalation with two seconds added to each exhalation. Breathe through your nose as you follow the prompts:
Inhale peace. Exhale stress, 2, 3. Inhale calm. Exhale worry, 2, 3. Repeat.
TIPS FOR GOING DEEPER
Imagine the peace and calm entering your body with the breath.
Imagine the stress and worry leaving your body with each exhale.
Use any words you like for the mantra. Some like this: Inhale love. Exhale love, 2, 3.
I love this one from beloved mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh: Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.
Happy breathing dear ones. Be kind to yourselves and each other. And shine brightly. xo Mary