Alternate nostril breathing
This is a great exercise to do and something you can turn to throughout the day when you are feeling stressed. When you are anxious your lungs fill with carbon dioxide and it is difficult to introduce oxygen, this happens with panic attacks. Alternate nostril breathing helps exhale the carbon dioxide from the body and make room for oxygen which allows you to relax.
Alternate nostril breathing brings about balance, settling your mind, body and emotions. It is a great technique to use before meditation or if you are experiencing anxiety or stress or having difficulty sleeping.
- Take a comfortable seated posture making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open.
- Relax your hands in your lap.
- Close down your eyes to full or half closed and take a few big breaths in and out of your nostrils noticing the way the breath fills up your lungs and then releases on the exhale.
- Using you right thumb and your ring finger bring your right hand up to your face and use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhaling through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
- Close your left nostril with your ring finger and pause with both nostrils closed.
- Open your right nostril releasing the breath slowly through the right side, pausing briefly at the end of the exhale.
- Inhale through the right side slowly.
- Hold both nostrils closed with your thumb and ring finger and pause briefly.
- Open your left nostril and release your breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
- Repeat these cycles 8-12 times following your inhaling and your exhaling.
- Each cycle is represented in steps 4-9
- Try to notice the length of your breaths, the key is to be slow and steady. It may help you to count your breaths in cycles. For example, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds and see if you can increase this count over time.
- If you are not in a meditation setting you can do alternate nostril breathing when you are on the go, for example if you have a spare few minutes before leaving the house or before entering a busy setting such as the supermarket or shopping centre. Repeat steps 4-9 if you can’t do the earlier steps and draw on this tool when you are trying to gain control of your mind and body as well as increasing mental alertness.
Single nostril breathing
This is a great exercise to do if you are trying to activate a certain area of the brain.
- Choose which side of the brain you want to activate.
- For this exercise you simply close one nostril and breathe in and out through the open nostril
- To activate the right hemisphere of the brain (which promotes feelings of calmness) breathe in through the left nostril
- To activate the left hemisphere of the brain (which promotes energetic feelings) breathe in through the right nostril.
Deep Abdominal breathing
- Sit comfortably and raise your ribcage to expand your chest
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen
- Take notice of how your upper chest and abdomen are moving while you breathe
- Concentrate on your breath and try to gently breathe in and out through the nose
- Your upper chest and stomach should be still, allowing the diaphragm to work more efficiently with your abdomen rather than your chest
- With each breath, allow any tension in your body to slip away
- Once you are breathing slowly and from your abdomen, sit quietly and enjoy the sensation of physical relaxation
This exercise is so simple yet so effective. It only needs to be done for a few minutes to feel the benefit.
- Focus attention on a single object. It could be a flower, pen, or anything that is handy.
- Inhale slowly
- Exhale slowly
- If your mind wanders gently draw it back to the object
- At the end of this exercise you should find that your thoughts have stopped racing.
All of these exercises are so easy to do and are great alternatives to meditation if that really isn’t your thing! You can draw on these exercises throughout the day as you need to and feel the benefit in no time!
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