These three deep breathing exercises are simple to deploy in any given situation (which is why I love them), and can play a valuable role in managing stress. The outside world can be chaos, and most of the time it’s beyond our control; the inner world, when peaceful, proves to be a powerful source of calm in both worlds.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
Stress in a Nutshell
Stressful situations activate the sympathetic nervous system, releasing stress hormones in the body and initiating the “fight or flight” response, which is what helps us respond to a perceived threat with urgency.
Our ability to respond quickly to danger is vital to survival, and so a little stress is a good thing in certain situations. For example, if you need to jump out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, the stress response can indeed save your life.
I know you probably know this already, but it doesn’t hurt to remember that you don’t need to be stressed out more often than not…
It’s when stress becomes an everyday, moment-to-moment experience—a way of living—that it becomes detrimental to our physical, mental, and emotional livelihood. Looking out into the world today, it’s easy to see that stress is not the ideal, or natural, way to live life.
For complex issues like stress-related dis-ease, a combination of simple solutions poses a powerful remedy.
I believe that many of us (if not most of us) could reap some sincerely amazing benefits from practicing deep breathing exercises, like the ones I’m sharing below, on a consistent basis.
3 Practical Deep Breathing Exercises for a Life Brimming with Joy
Focused breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, sending a message of relaxation to the brain, signaling that you are safe in this moment.
Shallow breathing (where the chest rises and falls) is one indicator that you can slow down and refocus on deep, full abdominal breaths.
It’s soothing just to remember that we can come back down to earth, to the present moment, with just a few deep breaths, and feel better.
Try these simple deep breathing exercises for immediate and long-lasting stress relief, and fortify your inner peace so you’re better equipped for future disturbances (you know, because most chaos is only controllable from the inside out, not the other way around).
1. Pause F.O.R. Peace
This is simplicity at its finest. No matter what you’re faced with right now, you can pause, even if only for a moment. Actually, the very point of this exercise is that you use just a tiny moment to realign the mental with the emotional.
The “F.O.R.” stands for:
- FOCUS on one, long, deep breath. Inhale deeply, feeling your diaphragm and belly expand (not your chest). Exhale through your nose or mouth for the same count, or longer. Be fully conscious of this breath.
- OBSERVE your mind. Does it wander during this breath? It’s okay if it does. Where does it go? Can you try again to be right here, right now?
- REFOCUS if you need to, bringing your mind back to your breath. If your mind wanders, just acknowledge this without judgment, and return to one deep breath.
Pausing for one (or more) conscious breath gives the mind a chance to catch up with the emotion. The purpose of this exercise is to simply be aware of how you’re being, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
2. Equal Breathing
Known as Sama Vritti in Sanskrit, “sama” means even, smooth, flat, equal or same; “vritti” means fluctuations or modifications. This deep breathing exercise focuses on equalizing the breath as a way to smooth the fluctuating mind.
There really are only two things you need to do to feel the balancing effect of this exercise:
- Inhale through the nose for a count of four.
- Exhale through the nose for a count of four.
You can work your way up to a count of six or eight as you become more practiced. Just breath for equal counts through the nose. Use it during the day or at nighttime to promote better sleep.
This amazingly simple technique is a gentle yet powerful way to calm the nervous system, repel stress, and enhance awareness.
3. Progressive Relaxation
This is a deep breathing technique that you can employ when you have a little more time (but you still don’t need more than a few minutes), and the ability to close your eyes. You can effectively practice this technique lying down, sitting, or standing.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus intently on each body part, one at a time, from your toes working your way up to your eyes—calves, knees, thighs, butt, stomach, back, chest, neck, arms and hands.
- Breathe deeply through the nose and tense each muscle group, one at a time. Hold the tension for three to five seconds per muscle group.
- Breathe out slowly through the mouth and relax the tensed muscle group. Slowly release for three to five seconds, or longer.
If you become uncomfortable or lightheaded holding the breath, hold for a lesser count.
Applying Mindful Breathing
The concept of conscious deep breathing revolves around mindfulness.
Mindful breathing can be practiced while waiting for an appointment, walking to the car, and brushing your teeth. You can even practice deep breathing while you exercise, focusing on how you feel when you coordinate your body’s movements with each inhale and exhale (as in yoga asana).
The beautiful gift of conscious breathing can be enjoyed without adjusting your schedule. In other words, it’s a practice you can fit into your life right now.
Practice deep breathing during meals, in meetings, or as part of your current morning or evening routine.
You don’t have to be stressed out, either, to practice deep breathing; this is merely a peaceful way of living in the world.
You may also like the 4-7-8 breathing method for better sleep.
- Do you practice any deep breathing exercises that help you stay cool, calm, and collected?
- What other practices do you employ for greater joy on a day-to-day basis?
Please share your thoughts, personal practices for inner peace, favorite breathing techniques, how you get back to joy, and any helpful or inspiring stories with me in the comments.
Share these deep breathing exercises with someone who could use some inner peace and quiet today.
Calm is the new cool.
Free digital paper by Free Pretty Things For You; lettering by Aim Happy.