The following breathing exercises have been arranged in a progressive order, each one helping you to build up awareness and strength to carry on to the next one.
You might want to start by doing the first one or two for a few sessions and then incorporate one more as you become familiar with the first steps.
Diaphragmatic breathing has many benefits that affect your entire body. It’s the basis for almost all meditation or relaxation techniques, which can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other critical bodily processes.
1. Breath awareness
The breath awareness exercise is a simple introduction to your breathing pattern, which helps you to slow down and enter a relaxed pace of breathing.
Sitting in an upright position, or lying down on your back, find a comfortable position that you can sustain for a few minutes.
Release any unnecessary tension and gently bring your awareness to your breath. You only need to observe your breath; do not change anything.
Observe the movements and sensations in your body with each inhalation and exhalation. Let your attention travel with the air passing through your nose and throat to your lungs, feeling the expansion of the chest and belly.
Continue doing this for a few minutes.
2. Three steps to deep breathing
To experience deep breathing, first you will have to identify and experience the three types of breathing that comprise it. For this exercise, it is better to lie down on your back if possible.
Place your right hand on top of your navel and left hand on top of your chest. Start by observing the natural flow of your breath for a few cycles.
a. Abdominal breathing
With the next inhalation, think of intentionally sending the air toward your navel by letting your abdomen expand and rise freely. Feel the right hand rising while the left hand remains almost still on top of the chest.
Feel the right hand coming down as you exhale while keeping the abdomen relaxed. Continue to repeat this for a few minutes without straining the abdomen, but rather allowing it to expand and relax freely.
After some repetitions, return to your natural breathing.
b. Thoracic breathing
Without changing your position, you will now shift your attention to your ribcage. With the next inhalation, think of intentionally sending the air toward your ribcage instead of the abdomen.
Let the thorax expand and rise freely, allowing your left hand to move up and down as you keep breathing. Breathe through the chest without engaging your diaphragm, slowly and deeply. Your right hand should remain almost still.
Continue to repeat this breathing pattern for a few minutes.
c. Clavicular breathing
With the next inhalation, repeat the thoracic breathing pattern, and when the ribcage is completely expanded, inhale a bit more, thinking of allowing the air to fill the upper section of your lungs at the base of your neck.
Feel the shoulders and collarbone rise gently to find some space for the extra air to come in. Exhale slowly, letting the collarbone and shoulders drop first and then continue to relax the ribcage.
Continue to repeat this for a few minutes. After some repetitions, return to your natural breathing.
3. Yogic breathing
Start by practicing this meditation technique lying on your back with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. As you gain more experience, you can try this in a sitting position.
Start by focusing on your natural breath, as practiced in the first exercise. Continue to practice the three stages of deep breathing sequentially. With the next inhalation, think of intentionally sending the air toward the navel by letting your abdomen expand and rise freely.
Continue breathing and thinking of sending the rest of the air into the ribcage, allowing it to expand fully. Continue to inhale the remaining amount of air you can by letting the collarbone and shoulders to rise.
Exhale slowly by first dropping the shoulders and collarbone, then relaxing the ribcage and finally releasing the abdomen. Repeat this for a few minutes.
Draw your attention to your hands as they rise and fall as you breathe. You can start counting as you inhale and exhale, keeping the same ratio. For example, you can count up to four on each inhale, and four on each exhale.
After a few repetitions, return to your natural breathing.
4. Box breathing
Box breathing is also known as square breathing. This is because each of the four steps involves breathing or holding the breath for 4 seconds, creating a 4×4 effect.
Sit or stand upright.
Slowly exhale through your mouth, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs.
Inhale as you count slowly to four in your head, filling the lungs completely without strain.
Hold the breath while counting slowly to four.
Exhale and release the breath slowly to the count of four.
Hold the breath out for the count of four.
Repeat the cycle five to ten times.
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