8 Breathing Exercises To Calm Your Nerves

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

Overwork, sleep-deprivation, and stress cause anxiety.
But luckily, there are plenty of ways to regain a sense of calmness that don’t require investing a lot of money for fancy spa treatments.

In fact, one of the best relaxation methods is entirely free.
All you need is a pair of healthy lungs, your breath, and 10 minutes of “me” time.
It’s called controlled deep breathing.

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body.
This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
The brain then sends this message to your body.

Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.

You may have already heard of mindful breathing, but maybe you’re not sure how to practice it.
In this article, you will learn few breathing techniques you can try to alleviate symptoms and start feeling more at ease.

Belly Breathing

There are lots of breathing exercises you can do to help relax.
But the simplest to learn and easiest to do is belly breathing.
It’s best to start this exercise if you have never done breathing exercises before.

How to do it?

1. Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.

2. Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.

3. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out.
Your chest should not move.

4. Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling.
Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.

Do this breathing 3 to 10 times.
Take your time with each breath.
Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.

4-7-8 Breathing

After you have mastered belly breathing, you may want to try this technique.

This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax.
You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down.

How to do it?

1. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.

2. Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.

3. Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.

4. Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.

Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.

Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is one of ancient breathing practices of pranayama yoga.
This means you’re inhaling for the same amount of time as you’re exhaling.

You can practice equal breathing from a sitting or lying-down position.
Whichever position you choose, be sure to get comfortable.

How to do it?

1. Shut your eyes and pay attention to the way you normally breathe for several breaths.

2. Slowly count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale through your nose.

3. Exhale for the same four-second count.

As you inhale and exhale, be mindful of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.

As you continue practicing equal breathing, your second count might vary.
Be sure to keep your inhale and exhale the same.

Morning Breathing

Try this exercise when you first get up in the morning to relieve muscle stiffness and clear clogged breathing passages.
Then use it throughout the day to relieve back tension.

How to do it?

1. From a standing position, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.

2. As you inhale slowly and deeply, return to a standing position by rolling up slowing, lifting your head last.

3. Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this standing position.

4. Exhale slowly as you return to the original position, bending forward from the waist.

Lion’s Breath

Lion’s breath involves exhaling forcefully.

How to do it?

1. Get into a kneeling position, crossing your ankles and resting your bottom on your feet.
If this position isn’t comfortable, sit cross-legged.

2. Bring your hands to your knees, stretching out your arms and your fingers.

3. Take a breath in through your nose.

4. Breathe out through your mouth, allowing yourself to vocalize “ha”.

5. During exhale, open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue out, stretching it down toward your chin as far as it will go.

6. Focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) or the end of your nose while exhaling.

7. Relax your face as you inhale again.

Repeat the practice up to six times, changing the cross of your ankles when you reach the halfway point.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

The progressive muscle relaxation method works best when you’re sitting at home, in your office chair, or even in your car.
By intentionally tensing and then relaxing each muscle group one at a time, you can nix excess tension from head to toe.

How to do it?

1. Close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for 2 to 3 seconds.

2. Start with your feet and toes, and then move up to your knees, thighs, glutes, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, and eyes.

Maintain deep, slow breaths the entire time.

Having trouble staying on track?
Try inhaling through your nose, holding for 5 counts while tensing your muscles, and then exhaling through your mouth as you release those muscles.

If holding your breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to just a few seconds.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Experiencing major deadline pressure at work?
Try alternate nostril breathing to refocus and reenergize.
It can help and make you feel more awake and alert.

1. Start by sitting in a comfortable meditative pose.

2. Hold out your dominant hand and press the tips of your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your ring finger, pinky finger, and thumb extended.

3. Bring your hand up in front of your face and press your thumb on the outside of one nostril.

4. Inhale deeply through your open nostril.
At the peak of your inhalation, release your thumb, press your ring finger on the outside of your other nostril, and exhale.

Continue this pattern for 1–2 minutes before switching sides so that you inhale through the nostril that you originally used to exhale, and vice versa.
Spend equal amounts of time inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils.

Quieting Response

The quieting response method combines deep breathing with visualization to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Hpw to do it?

1. Relax all the muscles in your face and shoulders and imagine having holes in the soles of your feet.

2. Take a deep breath, visualizing the breath as hot air entering the body through the holes in the soles of the feet.

3. Imagine the hot air flowing up the legs, through the tummy, and then filling the lungs.

4. Relax each muscle as the hot air passes it.

5. Breathe out slowly, imagining the air passing from the lungs back into the tummy, then the legs, before leaving the body through the holes in the soles of the feet.

Repeat until calm.

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