Stress Relief Breathing Exercises

Stress relief breathing exercises are excellent for helping you to relax, get oxygen flowing through your body, reducing the heart rate and reducing tension.  Breathing is a natural thing, but for some of us, after years of bad posture and the wear and tear of stress and anxiety, we have to re-train our self to breathe.  When you are feeling stressed, you tend to breathe short or shallow.  At times without even knowing it, you are holding your breath, causing you to feel fatigued and tense.  

Deep breathing techniques are a key part of meditation, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation and are also excellent tools for stress relief.  During the day when you are at home or work and you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, instead of a cigarette or coffee break, take a breathing break

Just 2 minutes of stress relief breathing will do you a world of good.  When you stop and take a conscious breath, you start to feel more centered and balanced and better able to deal with anything that’s happening around you.

Stress Relief Breathing Exercises

Let's discuss two simple and effective stress relief breathing techniques:

  1. Soft Belly Breathing
  2. Alternate Nostril Breathing

Soft Belly Breathing

Breathe from your diaphragm (belly) and not from your chest.  Have you ever watched a baby sleep and noticed his little tummy gently rise and fall?  Well, that’s how we as adults should also breathe.  This stress relief breathing exercise can help reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system).

You can do this practice in bed with your knees bent or sitting in a char with your back upright, supporting your own spine.

  • Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and fingertips below
  • Relax your shoulders and allow your eyes to soften
  • Allow the belly to expand under your fingertips on the inhale and contract on the exhale
  • Imagine an ocean wave rising and falling.  On the inhale, the belly expands, the wave rises; on the exhale, the belly contracts, the wave goes back out to the ocean
  • If you are not feeling any movement, gently press your fingertips into your belly on the exhale and release the pressure of your fingertips on the inhale
  • Press on the exhale, release on the inhale
  • Your breathing should be smooth, rhythmic, effortless
  • The inhale and exhale are equal (1 to 1)

Practice Soft Belly Breathing daily for as little as 2 to at most 20 minutes, until it becomes more comfortable and natural.  It's a great stress reliever that can be done at home or at your office.    Shorter practices are ideal during the day to help you better manage stress.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

courtesy of intosport

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This breathing technique balances both sides of the brain (poetic, creative side vs analytical side).  It not only calms the mind and relaxes the body but also clarifies and sharpens your focus and is, therefore, a quick reset during your day.

If you’re suffering from a cold or sinus issues, you can do mental alternate nostril breathing, not with your hands but with your mind.

Close your eyes and imagine your breath rising up to the space between your eyebrows, the “third eye”, and breathing out from the third eye point through both nostrils.   

Now picture an upside down ‘V’

Breathe in through the left nostril, out through the right,

Breathe in through the right nostril, out through the left.

Continue this stress relief breathing exercise for as long as you like.