Stress affects millions of Americans, and continues to be a daily issue in modern life. Essentially, stress is a depletion of healthy energy, and long-term stress leads to illness and disease. Americans need to learn how to restore physical and mental energy when stressed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Whether at work or in a grocery store, when stressed, the most convenient stress releaser is to breathe.
When stressed, the breath becomes shallow and quick, which assists stress to maintain it’s state. Something as simple of implementing three to five minutes of breath work, calms the mind and prepares you for your day. Below are some simple, but effective ways to breathe your way into a stress-free day.
Three Part Breath
The three part breath can be performed in two ways. The first way is to take three short inhalations with one long exhalation. As you inhale, feel the diaphragm and the rib cage expand with the breath. Essentially, the breath floats upward from the diaphragm, lower ribs to upper ribs. The alternate way is to take one long inhalation with three short exhalations. As you exhale, draw the abdominals inward to feel a slight contraction of core. A simple way to understand is to think “the navel is drawing toward the spine.”
Ujjayi, or “Ocean Breath,”is a breathing technique commonly used in yoga practices. The inhalation and exhalation are completed through the nose, and the breath is deep and controlled. The airway passage is slightly tightened to where the formation of the breath creates the oceanic, wave sound. The breath should balloon into the diaphragm and rib cage.
Belly to Rib Breathing
This technique can be performed in an upright, seated or laying down position. Place one hand on the belly and the other on the upper rib cage. The purpose is to alternate the breath between floating into the abdominal or into the rib cage. On the first inhalation, breath into the chest and feel the hand rise with the expansion of the ribcage. Slowly, exhale and on the second breath channel the breath move into the belly. Slowly exhale and release and continue to alternate between the ribs and stomach.
The Matching Breath
One simple, effective way to breathe in a controlled manner is to match the inhalation with the exhalation. It is recommended to silently count, and start breathing in for five counts and exhaling for five counts. As this becomes effortless, increase a count, for example 6, and progress until you can successfully breathe for a 10 second inhalation with a 10 second exhalation.