But it doesn’t always need to work that way. If you have the slightest notion that you are taking on more than you can, it is time to pay extra attention to your breath. But even if you are not stressed it is valuable to know how you breathe differently in different circumstances.
Practicing ‘controlled’ breathing is best done in a quiet space once or twice a day. If you can master your breath here, you will soon enough be able to calm yourself in any given situation. You may not like all 5 exercises, but they are just options to try. Take whatever works best for you. You only need about 5 minutes to practice, but you can increase the times as you feel like it.
5 Ways to relax using the breath
1. Straw Breathing
Sit in a relaxed position. Take a thick drinking straw and place it between your lips. Holding the straw with one or both hands is recommended. Quietly breathe in through your nose and out through the straw. You need to close your throat at the back so no air escapes through your nose as you exhale. You may even squeeze your nose closed with your other hand as you exhale. If you feel faint or uncomfortable at any moment, take a break and start again. Notice how long your exhalations become this way.
Sit in a relaxed position. Inhale through the nose and with your mouth closed hum and breath out through your nose. You can close your ears with your index fingers if you like. Make sure your humming voice is relaxed, don’t make the sound too deep or too high. Concentrate on the sound and see if you can gradually make your humming sound last longer.
3. Big Breath Being
Lie down on the floor with whatever support you need, but only put a thin cushion under your head as not to crunch your neck. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Breathe in through the nose and feel the air going in your chest (top hand rises) and into your belly (bottom hand rises). As you exhale through the nose, feel your bottom hand lower and notice your diaphragm muscle contracting and your belly lowers, shortly thereafter notice your ribs contracting and your chest with your top hand lowers. Stay with the awareness of all the parts in your body that are moving as you breathe. Feel your expansion to become ‘big breathing being’.
4. Moving breath-hug
In this exercise you can sit on the floor or in a chair. Inhale through the nose while looking up with your arms open and wide (feel the expansion of your heart space). As you exhale give yourself a hug by putting your hands on opposite shoulders and pressing your elbows into your belly (notice your belly and diaphragm muscle contract). You can round your back and turn your gaze inwards towards the heart. I personally enjoy this breath very much as it also expresses compassion to the self and we can all do with a little of that from time to time.
5. Counting breath
Counting breaths is an excellent way to calm the mind. Also very useful for when you want to go to sleep. You can do this exercise lying down or sitting and you can add this to any of the above mentioned breaths as an ‘added extra’. You simply count your inhalation to the count of 4 and exhale also to the count of 4. As you get settled with this count you may increase the count to 5 both ways. after 4 or 5 breaths you may extend it a little longer and you may even get to the count of 8. It is important that you are not forcing the breath and need to gulp a big breath in. Notice the pauses between your breaths.