Deep Breathing Exercises To Reduce Stress

Dealing with severe stress is very hard on so many levels. One thing you can do to help yourself to calm down and regain control in those situations, is taking a few moments for yourself. Focus on breathing! It’s so important. I can’t stress it enough.

In this article you’ll find out what ‘stress’ really is, what is happening to us in the situations of high stress, or even severe ones, why is focusing on breathing techniques so important and what deep breathing exercises can reduce stress

What Is Stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, marriage, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress.

Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between stressors. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds. The body’s autonomic nervous system has a built-in stress response that causes physiological changes to allow the body to combat stressful situations. This stress response, also known as the “fight or flight response”, is activated in case of an emergency. However, this response can become chronically activated during prolonged periods of stress. Prolonged activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body – both physical and emotional.

How Stress Affects Health

The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress – a negative stress reaction. Distress can disturb the body’s internal balance or equilibrium, leading to physical symptoms such as headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunctions and problems sleeping.

Emotional problems can also result from distress. These problems include depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry.

Stress also becomes harmful when people engage in the compulsive use of substances or behaviours to try to relieve their stress. These substances or behaviours include food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, and the Internet. Rather than relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances and compulsive behaviours tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

Two Types Of Breathing Patterns

Most people aren’t really conscious of the way they’re breathing, but generally, there are two types of breathing patterns:

  • Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing
  • Thoracic (chest) breathing

When people are anxious they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware you’re breathing this way.

Chest breathing causes an upset in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body resulting in increased heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension, and other physical sensations. Your blood is not being properly oxygenated and this may signal a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

During abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, you take even, deep breaths.

This is the way newborn babies naturally breathe. You’re also probably using this pattern of breathing when you’re in a relaxed stage of sleep.

The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to put one hand on your upper abdomen near the waist and the other in the middle of your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand raises the most.

If you’re breathing properly, your abdomen should expand and contract with each breath (and the hand on it should raise the most). It’s especially important to be aware of these differences during stressful and anxious times when you’re more likely to breathe from your chest.abdominal-breathing-exercise

Deep Breathing Exercises

1. Abdominal (diaphragmatic) Breathing

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand, and your chest should rise very little.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale.
  • Repeat this breathing exercise. Do it for several minutes until you start to feel better.

You can perform this exercise as often as needed. It can be done standing up, sitting down, or lying down. Put one hand on your upper abdomen near the waist and the other in the middle of your chest, focus and count 4-7-8. Remember it well.

2. Nasal breathing

  • Place your left hand on your left knee.
  • Lift your right hand up toward your nose.
  • Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers.
  • Open the right nostril and exhale through this side.
  • Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril.
  • Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side.
  • This is one cycle.
  • Continue for up to 5 minutes.
  • Always complete the practice by finishing with exhale on the left side.

3. “Squared” breathing

If possible, it is usually a good idea to sit in a chair with your back supported and both of your feet on the floor. Really feel the support of the chair and floor under you. Alternatively, you can sit in a seated meditation position or even lie down.

  • Begin by slowly exhaling all of your air out.
  • Then, gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4.
  • Hold at the top of the breath for a count of 4.
  • Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
  • At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for the count of 4.

Benefits Of Deep Breathing Exercises

  1. Lower stress and improve cardiovascular function – in situations of severe stress, these exercises (especially the first one – abdominal breathing – 4/7/8) cause your nervous system to switch from a “fight or flight” to a more relaxed state.
  2. Lower heart rate
  3. Normalize your breathing bringing more oxygen to your brain and every part of your body
  4. Calm you down helping you think more clearly

 

5 Tibetan Rites Exercises – Sequence Of Exercises Beneficial For Your Health

You have probably already heard of 5 Tibetan Rites exercises. It’s a sequence of exercises reported to be more than 2,500 years old, and is said to be a form of Tibetan yoga. I’m not going to talk about yoga in this article, I’ll be focusing on exercises. Personally I really love, love, love this sequence of exercises.

I’ll introduce them to you and explain exactly how they should be performed, how many of each exercise to do. I’ll also talk about the benefits of performing this sequence of exercises every day.

What Do They Consist Of

Obviously, as their name says, they consist of five exercises. Each exercise is to be performed 21 times. You should start with 3 reps (of each exercise) every day, in the first week (you’ll need like 20 minutes for this set at start, but day by day you’ll do it in 10 min.). Every week add 1 rep to each exercise, till you get to 21 reps of each exercise.

This is a perfect set of exercises especially for those wanting to become, and be, flexible, mobile (benefits will be described below) without heavy workout, and not oriented towards looking like fitness god/goddess, but simply to take care of their physical and mental health. Hey, Tibetan monks have been practising them for thousands of years, and with healthy nutrition and spirituality lived healthy and actively till very old age.

Benefits of These Exercises

Information about the benefits of this practice is based on the reports of practitioners, the opinions of medical professionals and yoga instructors. They include: increased energy; increased flexibility, strength and coordination; better circulation; improved immunity; solid sleep; stress reduction; helping with arthritis and sciatica; eliminating lower back problems; improving endurance and physical strength

I would especially like to point out that they have a very positive effect on concentration, reduction of everyday stress, and an enhanced sense of calm.

How To Perform These Exercise

As said above, one sequence consists of 5 exercises. First week: 3 reps each. Adding slowly one more rep for each exercise every week till 21 reps. When you’ll reach that point simply repeat it each day, sustaining that level. Now let’s describe each exercise:

  • First exercise (rite): “spinning”
    • Stand up straight with your arms outstretched, horizontal with your shoulders. Face your palms down.
    • Spin clockwise with your head lightly bent ahead and your eyes looking to the ground.
    • Make 3 spins (for starts, as described above – one more each week till 21 reps)

When you have completed spins, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, put your hands on your hips until all the dizziness is gone.

  • Second exercise (rite): “The J” – this exercise strengthens core muscles and improves/maintains spine elasticity.
    • Lie flat on your back. Place your hands flat down alongside of the hips, palms on the floor.
    • With the inhalation raise your head and your legs, keeping your knees straight. Pressing your palms to the ground will help you perform this exercise. At this point your body makes letter J. Hold this position for a couple of seconds.
    • While exhaling slowly lower your head and legs to the starting position.

Take a few seconds of rest. Allow your muscles and your whole body to relax. Then repeat. (3 reps first week, increasing number of reps per 1 a week till 21)

  • Third rite: “Arching”
    • Kneel on your knees and feet shoulder-width apart, with your palms flat against the side of legs. Bend your head towards your chest. Inhale while pressing your chin to your chest and crunching your abdomen
    • Slowly drop your head back while opening your chest and exhaling. Bend your elbows, keeping palms on the backside of your thighs
    • And again: – inhale: head to the chest, crunching your abdomen; – exhale: head back, chest opened. Repeat, ( same as previous exercises)
  • Fourth exercise (rite): “Tabletop”
    • Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Place your palms on the floor, besides your hips, fingertips toward your feet
    • Inhaling raise your hips, bend your knees so that the legs from the knees down are practically straight up and down. Let your head to gently fall backwards. Now your body, from your shoulders to your knees is horizontal.
    • Exhaling return to the starting position (bring back your hips to your hands and your head to the chest). Note: your hands and your heels do not change place. Repeat
  • Fifth exercise (rite): “The Two Dogs” – a combination of so-called ‘upward-facing dog’ and ‘downward-facing dog’
    • Kneel on your knees and your feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward, place your hands on the floor. Your hands should be aligned with your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
    • Inhale while arching your spine, keeping the tops of your legs on the ground. Drop your head back (;upward-facing dog)
    • Exhale while lifting your hips, moving your body into an upside-down “V” shape. Move your chin toward your chest and straighten your back into Downward-Facing Dog.
    • Repeat

A Word Of Warning – Who Shouldn’t Do These Exercises

Performing these exercises is not suggested for pregnant women. If you’ve been practising this sequence of exercises before pregnancy, and you want to continue – please consult with your doctor. Especially first exercise (spinning) will increase nausea and dizziness. And the other exercises as well are not compatible with pregnancy, so it’s advises not to perform them during pregnancy.

In cases of illnesses, post-operation recovery, spine injuries, low immunity, chronic diseases … do not perform these exercises without consult with your doctor if and when it is safe to begin.

Include This Sequence Of Exercises in Your Everyday Life

Performing these exercises regularly will help you improve your physical and mental health. They are beneficial in so many ways, as discussed above.

Take care of yourself. I hope you’ve found this article interesting, informative, and useful. If you have any questions, please leave them in comments and I’ll be more than happy to answer.

Thanks for reading this article.