Breathwork can help you stay calm when the world seems topsy-turvy
Any kind of breathing exercise is called breathwork. While the term may be new, the concept is old.
There’s an app for everything these days, especially when it comes to different forms of exercise. If you spend enough time on social media, you may have even seen some that offer different breathing techniques.
Any kind of breathing exercise is called breathwork. While the term may be new, the concept is old. After all, two common phrases that often go hand in hand are “calm down” followed by “take a deep breath”. That’s because intentional or deep breathing has a very strong association with your mental and physical wellbeing. And if there was ever a time we needed some extra help in keeping our minds healthy while staying within the confines of our rooms, it would be now.
Benefits of breathwork
Breathwork has many different names, forms and techniques nowadays but the purpose of them all remains the same. They all provide benefits like:
1. Stress relief: Our daily lives are stressful enough - add a pandemic and lockdown to it and stress levels shoot through the roof. A study published in 2017 compared the cortisol (stress hormone) levels of two groups - one that participated in breathwork training and one that didn’t. The levels were lower in the group that received the training, showing a relation between breathwork and stress.
2. Self-awareness: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all come out of this lockdown a little bit more self-aware? Well, breathwork could help you with that. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine stated that a certain type of breathwork could positively influence one’s temperament and, in turn, result in improved self-awareness.
3. Better health: A study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that slow breathing techniques can increase comfort, make you feel relaxed and even make you feel more energetic and pleasant. It also claimed that the practice could reduce the symptoms of mental health problems like depression and anxiety. It has also been used to control feelings of anger and confusion.
How to practise breathwork
As mentioned above, there are many ways to do breathwork now. Here are some simple exercises to get you started and help you stay calm during this lockdown:
Pranayama: Many of you may already be familiar with pranayama which is a part of yoga practice. One of the most common techniques within this is alternate nostril breathing. In this, you close the left nostril, breath in from the right, close the right nostril and breath out from the left. Next, you breathe in from the left, close it, and breath out from the right. And keep repeating.
Deep breathing: Another very simple breathing exercise is deep breathing. All you need to do is to pull back your shoulders a bit to expand your chest as you inhale deeply through your nose. Hold for 4-5 second and then breath out through your nose deeply. This is extremely easy to practice in moments of extreme stress and anxiety.
4-7-8: Exhale and empty your lungs of air as much as you can. Now inhale for 4 seconds from your nose, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale through pursed lips for eight seconds, making a whoosh sound. Do this four times at least. Experts believe this technique could have the added benefit of helping you fall asleep and managing cravings.
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