Mindful breathing is an essential practice that I use throughout the day; I cannot stress enough how good it is for you. Focus on your breathing when you are stressed, in physical pain, feeling frustrated, anxious, and so on—mindful breathing can transform these energies, leaving you in a more positive, relaxed state of mind. This can be done anywhere, anytime; all you really need is a few minutes. You can sit at a desk, on the floor, or pretty much wherever you are as long as you’re comfortable. Posture is important as well as you'll want to elongate and straighten your spine giving more openness in the heart and lung area.
When you breathe deeply for a continuous, and not necessarily extended, period of time, you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system. The areas of the body associated with this system are in the cranial and sacral regions of the spinal cord, and activating this system jumpstarts a variety of calming systems in your body. Just take a few moments and breathe. These wonderful breathing exercises will clear the mind, release emotional tensions, improve digestion, and leave you feeling energized.
Some benefits of mindful breathing:
- can trigger deep relaxation by clearing the mind and calming the body
- an increase in the intake of oxygen helps to nourish the body and brain with the vital life force of breath
- holding the breath between inhales and exhales helps to regulate and direct the flow of breath in the body, helping to maximize benefits and the flow of prana.
- helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain (linear thinking with creative thinking).
- alleviates headaches and calms anxiety and tense mental states
- Alternate Nostril Breath is great preparation for meditation and helps to regulate the heating and cooling cycles of the body (as one nostril is responsible for wake cycles and sleep cycles.)
Some people grab pharmaceutical relaxants, wine, alcohol, food, etc. to calm them; I just get my breathing ON and I am grounded, relaxed, comforted, and satisfied.
Whatever you are doing, do it with presence and awareness. Check in with your body and your breath. Be mindful of every action and be aware of every sense
1) Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai) breath: This is kind of the classic yoga breath where you actually do a snoring or ocean sound through your nose. Constrict your stomach muscles and force that snoring sound out through your nose. You do that for about 30 seconds. This breathing technique has done wonders for me. I've done it in the car amongst traffic and crazy drivers, in bed when trying to sleep, standing in line at the grocery store (I just do it a bit more quietly), when stressed and anxious about something, or even when I just want to tune in with myself.
How to perform Ujjayi breath:
- Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars.
- Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale.
- I like to take a count of four on inhale and a count of eight on the exhale. Continue your audible Ujjayi breathing throughout your yoga practice or in everyday life and activities to experience deeper breathing, a cleansing of bodily toxins, and increased energy.
Try shifting into Ujjayi breathing whenever you find yourself becoming aggravated or stressed, and you should notice a prompt soothing effect. Additional benefits include diminished pain from headaches and relief of sinus pressure. Other benefits may include getting rid of phlegm and strengthening the nervous and digestive systems.
2) Alternate Nostril Breathing: This is a basic yoga breathing exercise where you inhale through one nostril, retain the breath, and exhale through the other nostril. Breathing through the left nostril is calming, and breathing through the right nostril has an energizing effect.
Modern scientists have found that we do not breathe equally on both nostrils. That is, one nostril is much easier to breathe through than the other at any particular time. Each nostril seems to naturally alternate about every three hours. The Yogis claim that natural period is every two hours.
By actively practicing Alternative Nostril Breathing you produce optimum function to both sides of the brain: that is optimum creativity and optimum logical verbal activity.
How to Practice Alternate Nostril Breath:
** First and foremost, blow your nose and clear everything out. Don' t practice this breathing if your sinuses are clogged and congested. ***
- Sit in a comfortable seated position and begin your Ujjai breath.
- Hold your right hand up and turn your pointer and middle finger down, curling them into your palm. This leaves the thumb and ring and pinky fingers available.
- You will use your thumb to close your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers to close your left nostrils.
- You will begin by covering your left nostril first and inhaling (slowly—2 counts) thru the right nostril.
- You will then close the right nostril and with your thumb and hold the breath (for 4–8 counts, depending on experience level).
- Then release the ring and pinky fingers from the left nostril and slowly exhale (4 counts).
- Inhale in the left nostril, close the left nostril, and hold for 4–8 counts before releasing the thumb and exhaling out the right nostril.
- Inhale in the right nostril, hold, and repeat exhale and inhale on the left side.
So go practice your breathing—it will do wonders.
Kibby Miller turned her life and health around in 2010 by switching over to a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Two years later, enthused with the results she saw in herself and passionate about getting the word out, she started her own blog on healthy, plant-based eating. She now teaches others how easy and delicious it is to transition over to this way of eating and living through her Healthy Cooking Classes and also offers her services to teach people in their own home how to buy and prepare healthier food choices, organize their kitchens, and make the change to a better lifestyle. Come visit www.kibbysblendedlife.com to find out more about Kibby and to get tons of information, recipes, and inspiration!