According to a recent study, more than two-thirds of young adults between the ages of 18-24 have called into work sick in the past year due to stress. We live in a society where stress is more prevalent than ever and, with stress, comes dilapidated health which, if not tackled, can lead to both physical and mental illness, including anxiety, insomnia, and even depression. Whether work has got you down or there’s trouble at home, stress is ever-present, which is why it’s important to find ways to deal with stress and keep our health in tip-top condition. Below, explore simple breathing exercises for stress.
From the office to the comfort of your bedroom, you can practise our breathing exercises anywhere.
Diaphragmatic Breathing or Belly Breathing is one of the simplest types of breathing to reduce stress. It is a type of deep breathing and takes less than a minute. To begin, get comfortable on your yoga mat – you can sit or lie down on your back – and then place both of your hands on your stomach, just above your belly button. Take one of your hands and put it on your chest. Once you’re in the correct position, focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply through your nostrils – allowing your chest to rise and your hand with it. Then, use your lips to breathe out slowly, as if blowing up a balloon. If it helps, gently press your hand into your stomach while releasing your breath. You should repeat this up to ten times.
After just a few deep breathes in and out, you’ll begin to feel relaxed, but continue for at least 30 seconds. If you’re practising controlled breathing as a routine, belly breathing is a great starting point.
Particularly beneficial for sleep, 4-7-8 Breathing is a straightforward method that will have you drifting off in minutes; however, it can be practised at any time of the day to help relieve stress or control anxiety. To begin, get comfortable on your yoga mat – once again, you can sit or lie down on your back – and then breathe in steadily. It should take around four seconds to fill your lungs completely. Hold the breath for seven seconds and then, as quietly as possible, breathe out while counting; it should take around eight seconds. When you reach eight, your lungs should be empty. There is no recommendation for how many times you should repeat the 4-7-8 breathing exercise; continue until you feel completely relax. A couple of minutes should suffice. Throughout the process, make sure you stick to the 4-7-8 pattern and establish a rhythm – the more you practise, the more natural it will feel.
Ideal for the office, Roll Breathing is a simple but effective breathing exercise you can do from the comfort of your desk while at work. When trying Roll Breathing for the first time, we recommend you lie down; but once you’ve mastered the technique, you can do it anywhere. Roll breathing helps to reduce stress and anxiety and encourages you to use your full lung capacity for steadier breathing.
To begin, rest your left hand on your stomach, and your right hand on your chest – both of your hands should feel loose and move freely up and down as breathe in and out; you should never feel tense or rigid when trying to relax. Next, take a deep, slow breath in from the bottom of your lungs. Always use your nose to breathe in and your mouth to breathe out. As soon as you’ve breathed in as much as you can, you can hold it for a second before exhaling. Inhale and exhale slowly until you have a rhythm. Repeat the exercise nine times. On the ninth breath, push the air into your lower lungs and, as you breathe out, let out a soft ‘whoosh’ sound. Roll breathing should be practised for at least a few minutes to feel the benefit – you should see noticeable differences in your stress levels throughout the exercise. If it helps you to relax, during the exercise, close your eyes and picture positive thoughts.
While breathing exercises you can do anywhere and everywhere are all well and good, there’s one that’s particularly useful for getting you feeling relaxed and ready for your day: Morning Breathing. As soon as you wake up, you can practice Morning Breathing to help relax your muscles after a deep sleep and get your mind and body prepared for the day, especially if you’re likely to encounter stress.
To begin, stand tall with your back straight and your knees bent. Bend your upper half from the waist until your hands hang loosely just above the floor – imagine you’re a string puppet. Then, as you relax, breathe in steadily as you return to your original, straight standing position. Allow the air to inflate your chest and straighten your head up last. To complete the exercise, exhale as you lower your chest and arms back down towards the ground. Once you have finished, slowly, stand up straight and have a good stretch to make sure everything’s loose. You should only need to practise this exercise once.
Our fifth and final breathing exercise takes the longest and encourages your muscles to relax completely. As well as reducing stress, Deep Muscle Relaxation, combined with Belly Breathing techniques, is a fantastic exercise to complete after a warm down after a workout or exercise class.
To begin, sit down on your yoga mat and close your eyes. Gradually, you will loosen up all your primary muscles. Initially, let your face relax and then push your eyebrows together and release. Next, tilt your head forward until your chin touches your chest, stretching the back of your neck; hold and release. To loosen your shoulders, circle your shoulders while shrugging a few times and release. While completing the different exercises, make sure you’re Belly Breathing. To relax your arms, stretch both arms out in front of you, hold for a few seconds and let them fall to your side. Lastly, to relax your legs, point your toes upwards as far as they go, extending your calf; hold and, for the very last time, relax.
Every day, take a couple of minutes to yourself to breathe, stretch and, ultimately, relax.