Our breath is a powerful force that literally sustains our life, and does so without our needing to do or change anything. However, when we bring our present awareness to our breath and learn how to connect more deeply to it, we can experience a reduction in stress, anxiety, and chronic pain along with improved sleep and overall well-being. New research studies on breath awareness shows us the incredible link between our quality of breath and our emotional state and physiological symptoms.
All of these breathing techniques can be practiced seated or lying in bed or on a yoga mat.
1. Even inhales and exhales.
Practice mindful breath awareness by first noticing your inhales and exhales exactly as they are. Observe the natural rhythm of the breath as it is. Begin to work towards equal inhales and exhales. If you notice that your breath in is a bit shallow, but your exhales are long, count how long your exhale is and try to match your inhale to the same number.
2. Shorter inhales, longer exhales.
Polyvagal theory informs us that when the exhales are longer than the exhales, our body is able to adapt more quickly into a state of relaxation. Practice breathing in for 3 counts, holding for 1-2 beats, then exhaling for at least 4 counts, and eventually extending this to 6 beats.
3. Inhale, hold, inhale again.
This breath practice starts with inhaling for 4 or 5 counts, then holding the breath, and inhaling even further. When we hold our breath, our lungs actually expand and their capacity to hold breath increases, allowing you to fill yourself up with more air. Try holding your breath for at least 5 counts, and if comfortable, working up to holding for 8.