Breathing is an essential part of living, and conscious breathing is an essential part of living well.
Have you ever noticed when you're anxious or stressed your breath becomes short and shallow? Or when you’re feeling relaxed, your breath is long and deep? Our breath has a major impact on our body, mind and well-being, and if harnessed, is an incredibly powerful tool for healing and stress relief.
In yogic tradition the breath is called prana, or life force. By bringing awareness to the breath and practicing various breathing techniques, you can decrease your stress levels, instantly improve your mood, lower your blood pressure, increase clarity and attentiveness, strengthen your immune system, and literally, breathe your way calm.
If you’re interested in harnessing the power of your breath to help ease tension and anxiety in the body, try these 3 simple breathing exercises.
Please note: If you’re newer to breathwork or conscious breathing (we know you’re already an expert at unconscious breathing), these exercises can be modified by decreasing the amount of time listed.
3 Simple Exercises To Breathe Your Way Calm:
To start each exercise the directions are the same:
These exercises can be done seated upright in a chair, spine straight, shoulders relaxed, feet planted on the floor; or seated cross legged on the floor with a straight spine and shoulders relaxed (whichever position you find most comfortable).
Begin by breathing in and out through your nose. Bring awareness to your breath, consciously observe each inhalation and each exhalation.
Exercise 1: Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath Retention)
Inhale slowly for a count of 4 seconds as deeply and fully as possible pausing at the top once you’re full. Hold the breath in for 4 seconds. Slowly exhale for a count of 4 seconds pausing at the bottom once you’re empty. Hold the breath out for 4 seconds. This is 1 round, repeat for at least 10 rounds.
When to use: Whenever you’re feeling stressed or need to relax. This is our go-to breathing exercise and it’s 1000 times more powerful than a chill pill.
Exercise 2: Kundalini Backpack Meditation
Inhale for 4, 1 second quick deep breaths through the nose, then slowly exhale everything out for the count of 4. (Think: 4 quick inhales, then slowly release for a count of 4 breaths.) This is one round. Repeat this cycle of breath for at least 10 rounds.
When to use: Anytime you need a quick burst of energy or want to jump start your day if you’re feeling lethargic. This is also a great exercise to do when you are unable to focus.
Exercise 3: Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate-Nostril Breathing)
Bring your right hand into a gentle fist in front of your nose, then extend your thumb and ring finger (so you’re making a Love gun with your hand). Using your right thumb, block off your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril, then use your ring finger to block off the left nostril retaining the breath for a brief moment. Release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, hold the breath for a second, then block off your right nostril using your right thumb and exhale through the open left nostril. That is one complete round. Repeat for 10 rounds.
This is definitely the trickiest of the 3 exercises and does take some time to get use to. Our advice: Start slow and have fun with it! If you can’t complete 10 full rounds, start with something like 3-5. With practice Nadi Shodhana will become much easier and feel much less foreign. (We promise.)
When to use: Anytime you’re feeling blocked or stuck on something. Alternate-nostril breathing purifies the nadis, which according to ancient yogic tradition, are the energy passages that carry healing life force energy through the body.
TWEET IT OUT: 3 Simple Exercises to breathe your way calm.
The best part about these breathing exercises is that you will feel a shift in energy in just a few minutes. Give it a try and let us know how it goes by sharing in the comments below!
Inhale + exhale,
Erika & Jess
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