Focusing on the breath
Breathing is an involuntary act. You do it without thinking, completely subconsciously. Yet we don’t utilise our full potential. When you are unaware of your breathing, you don’t experience its entire spectrum of health boosting benefits. Fully conscious breathing has a multitude of amazing effects on the body that you might not be aware of. From reducing stress and altering the chemistry of your brain to improving your sleep, dedicating some time each day to practice only 5 minutes of breathing techniques will have such a positive impact on your health, headspace and any lingering toxic thoughts and emotions. Making it an absolute must for you to add into your daily routine.
Types of breathing
There are many different types of breathing techniques you can try. Each one different from the rest. I would recommend trying a couple and see which ones work for you best.
This is a simple breathing exercise that brings you into the present moment through your focus. In addition to concentrating on the breath, you are also counting seconds, this combination retrains your awareness from the toxic thoughts and gives you space to bring in all of the enlightening ones.
Imagine a box. Begin at the first horizontal side and inhale for 4 seconds, following the side of the box to the corner.
Once you reach the first corner pause and hold your breath along the first vertical side of the box for 4 seconds.
When you get to the next corner, exhale along the second horizontal side of the box for 4 seconds.
Then once more holding the breath when you get to the corner, again for 4 seconds.
Repeat step 1.
You can change the number of seconds you are breathing in and out for as you get used to the technique, slowly increasing the number and deepening the breaths.
Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana as its called in yoga, is a very calming and de-stressing technique. We are naturally dominant on one side of our nose when it comes to breathing and this technique balances out the difference, equalising both sides. The practice also has a positive impact on the brain, as in our day to day lives we mostly operate out of our left brain - the critical side of the brain that deals with past and future. Ideally, we want to be working more from our left side that deals with creativity, intuition and the present moment. This technique balances out both hemispheres of the brain through increasing oxygen to the tissues.
With your right hand, close your right nostril with your thumb.
Exhale through your left nostril, and then inhale again through your left nostril.
Hold the breath, remove your thumb and close the left nostril with your ring finger.
Exhale through your right nostril, then inhale through the same.
Close your right nostril, open your left and slowly exhale.
Repeat breathing through alternate nostrils.
The ujjayi breath is a breathing technique used during yoga. It calms the mind, releases any pent up tension and is great for reducing nerves. The technique can take a while to get used to as part of the method is to constrict your throat muscles whilst exhaling, creating the sound of the ocean. There is a way to build this up by alternatively exhaling the sound “HAA”.
Close your mouth and start to breathe in and out through your nose.
Inhale through your nose slightly deeper than normal, you’ll be able to hear the sound of the air as it passed through your nostrils.
Exhale through your nose while constricting the muscles in the back of your throat. You can also try exhaling the sound “HAA” to begin with as it will be easier to understand the type of noise you are aiming for when trying the first method.
Enjoy experimenting with these breathing exercises and start adding them to your daily routines.