Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Original article: Healthy Natured
Discover the 4 best breathing exercises to beat stress and develop mindfulness. Learn how you can manifest intent and grow gratitude through Ayurvedic breath.
You have probably heard that by utilizing certain styles of breathing helps to beat stress.
But did you know that they become even more powerful when we combine them as part of the work we do for our personal development, when we look to make change, or manifest intent.
The following are the 4 best breathing exercises that not only assist you to release stress and rid yourself of nervous tension, they also allow you to develop mindfulness and enter a mindset more conducive to making change.
We start with Sama Vritti, which is inhaling and exhaling equally. This helps calm the mind.
Then Nadi Shodhana which is slow, deep breathing through alternate nostrils.
Sohum Meditation which is breathing through both nostrils which allows you to focus more intently upon your breath.
Anuloma Viloma, faster deeper breathing when you’ve mastered the others.
1. Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing or Box Breathing Technique)
Sama means equal. Vritti means the state of being.
For the vast majority of us, during our development and hectic lifestyles, we have been aware or focused upon the way we breath. We are more inclined to be in the practice of shallow breathing.
Our goal when beginning the Sama Vritti is to counter bad breathing habits and replace them with a technique that promotes stable, even and deep breathing.
This has added benefits. It enables us to calm the nervous system, increase our focus, and reduces stress and anxiety.
Sama Vritti is great for beginners and for those who need to learn how to relax. Commonly known as box breathing or equal breathing because it is performed using equal count and rhythm of breath.
This is a great way to start the day, or rejuvenate it when required.
To start Sama Vritti, inhale through the nose, keeping an even steady pace, for the count of 4.
Then hold the breath in for the same steady even count of 4.
Exhale, keeping the release of breath steady and even for the same count of 4.
Hold the this for another even count of 4 before inhaling.
As you advance, aim to repeat the 4 sides of the box (inhale, hold, exhale, hold) for a count of 6, then a count of 8 and eventually a count of 10 or more.
Don’t rush this and only progress once you have mastered the current count you work on.
"Remember to breathe through your nose. This adds a natural resistance to the breath and is a basis of pranayama breathing." - Sama Vritti Top Tip
Sama vritti can be done anytime and in any place. This is one of the 4 best breathing exercises because it is especially effective in the moments we catch ourselves creating limiting thoughts.
It is also wonderful if you are someone who has a hard time falling asleep. This breathing style helps to slow the mind and reduce any racing thoughts.
Equally if during the day you find your mind is wandering, the Sama Vritti also helps bring us back to a state of focus and concentration where we can again be truly present and focus on the situation at hand.
2. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
The next breathing exercise is used to balance and unite the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Also known as alternate nostril or more commonly, the silent breath technique.
Ensure you start by making sure you are in a comfortable seated pose.
The place your right thumb over the right nostril, gently blocking the airway.
Inhale deeply through the left nostril. This is one of the best 4 breathing exercises that really enables beginners to understand the concept of focusing on the breath.
At the peak of inhalation, pause.
Close off the left nostril with the ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril.
Continue this pattern, inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right.
As you become accustomed to the practice the entire cycle will become one smooth repeated pattern and you will not need to give any attention to hands and fingers.
"Slowing the pace of breath is the key to achieving great results. Remember it is called the silent breathing technique. Concentrate on maintaining the breath cycle in total silence. As you do this focus on sensing the cold air as you inhale and notice the warmth when you exhale." - Nadi Shodhana Top Tip
Nadi Shodhana works best during those “crunch times” or when we find it challenging to find our focus or regain energy. This is an excellent “pick me up” prior to those mid-afternoon meetings.
Nadi Shodhana is excellent for clearing and balancing the channels and meridians within our body. It also helps make us feel relaxed due to the breath enabling us to enter into a slower and more peaceful mindset.
This is also a great sleep inducing exercise.
3. Sohum Meditation (Abdominal Breathing / Ocean Wave)
Everyone can enjoy this breathing exercise. It is commonly known as Ocean Wave Breathing. This is due to the visualization exercise that is used.
The technique is often easier to learn by imagining the breath cycle as an ocean wave. That comes up upon the sand and splashes on the shore before it stops and quietly retracts.
Start with one hand placed upon the chest and the other on the belly.
Then take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring that it is your diaphragm (not your chest) that inflates with air. Ensure that your breath in creates a full stretch within the lungs.
Then, as the wave does upon the sand, pause for 2 to 3 seconds
Finally exhale, slowly and silently, like the breath is a wave receding from the shore.
Pause 2-3 seconds.
"This breathing exercise is wonderful for use during pregnancy. It is said to nurture the growth of the little one because it helps to improve the levels of oxygen absorption and detoxifies the whole body." - Sohum Meditation Top Tip
Aim to eventually achieve a count of 8 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for a minimum of 5 minutes each day. This will enable you to lower blood pressure and lead a tension-free lifestyle.
This breathing technique is also very helpful for entering a manifesting mindset.
Great to use before taking any tests, interviews, or any stressful event. While it may seem hard in the beginning, persevere and allow your body and mind to train you in this new breath. You’ll be amazed at the levels of control you can attain.
4. Anuloma Viloma (Intermediate Level Of Nadi Shodhana) This breath technique is very similar to the alternate nostril breathing.
The difference is that the air is inhaled forcefully, still in a controlled manner but removing slow-paced breathing with fast and forceful. This requires us to allow our breath to be heard and to be loud.
According to the ancient texts, this helps to heal the physical and emotional. Many benefits are seen when Anuloma Viloma is practiced regularly. Method
To begin, ensure you start by making yourself comfortable in a seated position.
Before you begin, it is important that you clear your nose and remove any excess mucus.
Begin by closing your right nostril using your right thumb and lifting your right elbow so that it is in line with the right shoulder, and at a 90 degree angle (i.e. parallel to the floor.)
Inhale with force through your left nostril. You should hear the breath enter as a noisy gust of air as it is inhaled as quickly as possible.
Close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril.
Repeat this cycle, without the intermediate holding steps.
It should become 1 flowing pattern with the cycle being a fast but still controlled pace of inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
This is a fast-paced nadi shodhana. Of importance is that your breath is pushed and forced as it is this that cleans and clears your lungs and increases your heart rate. This breathing exercise is a great way to begin your day! But remember to take care. This is an intermediate level of breath and so a technique that can make you feel lightheaded. Anuloma Viloma Top Tip Anuloma Viloma should be done on an empty stomach, preferably early in the morning or mid-afternoon (before you grab the afternoon coffee!) You will find that it is highly energizing!