Have you felt stressed lately? Anxious? Nervous? Who wouldn’t with fall semester just getting underway! Your stress level is probably off the chart.
Count Your Breath
Do me a favor. Get a timer and count how many times you breathe in one minute. Don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get back.
Did you do it?
How many breaths did you take – 10, 15, maybe 20?
No worries. Most people breathe between 10-15 times per minute. However, as normal as this may seem, this should not be your goal. Your ideal breathing rate is six breaths per minute. Practicing slow, deep breathing can help oxygenate the blood and improve your ability to exercise.
Take the Breathing Test
Try this. Take a minute and try to breathe as fast and as shallow as you can.
Do you feel tired and stressed?
I bet you do. Now try breathing purposely, but this time, take slow, deep breaths that you feel all the way down in your belly and release with full exhalations. In fact, exhale until you hear your breath release. Your breath should sound like you are making a sigh of relief. When you inhale, your belly should fill up and when you exhale, your belly should flatten. Just let it go!
How do you feel now? Are you more focused? Do you feel more relaxed?
You should try and practice deep breathing a couple of times a day and before and after stressful events such as taking an exam.
Here’s a few breathing techniques to try:
With three-part breathing:
- Start your inhale from your lower belly.
- Without letting go, take another inhale from your rib cage.
- Finally inhale once more from your chest.
- Exhale your full breath to the count of six. Make sure your belly is flattening rather than expanding.
- Repeat five to six times a couple of times a day.
Breath counting is really simple with these steps:
- Breathe normally. See – I told it was easy. Well, you have to do a little more.
- Mindfully count how long it takes to inhale and how long it takes to exhale.
- Once you have your number, make it your goal to exhale one count more than you inhale. Your ultimate goal should be to exhale twice as long as you inhale. For example, if your count is seven on the inhale, shoot for eight on the exhale.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is a technique used in yoga and meditation. If you have never done it before, you may feel apprehensive in trying it. Once you feel the benefits, you will lose your self-consciousness.
In this technique, you inhale through one nostril, hold the breath for a second, and exhale through the other nostril. Start by placing your thumb and index finger on either side of your nostrils. Whatever hand you use will determine which side they will go on.
There are six steps to alternate nostril breathing:
- Inhale through your left nostril while closing the right nostril. You can do this to the count of four or five.
- Hold your breath for a second building up to about 15 seconds after you have done this for a while.
- Then exhale through the right nostril while keeping the left one closed to the count of eight or ten.
- Now you need to do the other side. Inhale through the right nostril keeping the left nostril closed to the count of four or five.
- Hold your breath for a second – building up to about 15 seconds.
- Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right one closed to the count of eight or ten.
These six steps complete one breath work. Try to do this technique a few times in one sitting.