After a long day at work, coming home to more chores and errands is not the most calming environment, especially when the kids are running around, demanding your attention. Before you begin to tackle your list of evening to-do's, try taking just a few moments to yourself to relax by using these 6 techniques provided by Greatist.
Need to know breathing basics: Don’t wait until 'fight or flight' kicks in before minding the breath. Controlled breathing not only keeps the mind and body functioning at their best, it can also lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and, if we play our lungs right, help us de-stress.
While the effects of breathing techniques on anxiety haven’t yet been studied at length (at least in a controlled clinical setting), many experts encourage using the breath as a means of increasing awareness, mindfulness, or, for the yogis among us, finding that elusive state of Zen. To get the bottom of the breath work, Greatist spoke to breathing expert Dr. Alison McConnell, yoga instructor Rebecca Pacheco, and psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer. But follow closely: Breathing easy isn’t quite as easy as it sounds!
Mind over matter, your action plan: From the confines of a bed, a desk, or any place where negativity finds its way, consider these six techniques to help keep calm and carry on. Also, try these 8 moves to boost your morning mood.
Sama Vritti or “equal breathing”: How it’s done: Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath. To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four (all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath). Got the basic pranayama down? More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: Calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress, Pacheco says.
When it works best: Anytime, anyplace—but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed. “Similar to counting sheep, if you’re having trouble falling asleep, this breath can help take your mind off the racing thoughts, or whatever might be distracting you," Pacheco says.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
Abdominal breathing technique: How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: Six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure, McConnell says. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer. Learning to control breathing can also help to improve your exercise performance, click here to see how.
When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event. But keep in mind, “Those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked how hard it is to control the breath,” Pacheco says. To help train the breath, consider biofeedback tools such as McConnell’s Breathe Strong app, which can help users pace their breathing wherever they are.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
Nadi Shodhana or “alternate nostril breathing”: How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb, and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi shodhana is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake. “It’s almost like a cup of coffee,” Pacheco says.
Level of difficulty: Intermediate
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