8 breathing exercises to relax in a moment
The prevailing way of life in societies like ours , that reinforce competition and constant self-improvement, produce a high amount of stress on our body, which alters our well-being and can lead to anxiety problems and even disorders. One of the ways to control our mental activation and stress is through breathing.
Breathing is one of the basic functions of the organism that allows us to obtain the oxygen necessary for survival. This function can be difficult in the presence of stress or contextual elements that cause the development of accelerated patterns that hinder the correct entry of oxygen into the body. However, training this function can greatly contribute to reducing the level of stress caused by environmental and social circumstances through relaxation, reducing problems of insomnia, hypertension, headache, asthma, sexual dysfunction or phobias , in addition to helping to better control the perceptual process, the management of pain or other sensations produced by organic or mental causes.
Some effective breathing techniques
Then proceed to indicate a series of simple breathing exercises that can be carried out to relax body and mind.
1. Deep breathing
The simplest exercise to perform of those presented here. Basically It serves to calm down after a stress or effort . It is based on taking air through the nose, keeping it in the lungs and finally releasing it gently through the mouth. Each of the steps must last around four seconds.
2. Diaphragmatic / abdominal breathing
This exercise is also very simple. It is similar to the previous one, but in this case the breathing will be abdominal . To carry it out requires a place to be comfortable, preferably sitting or lying down. First of all, inhale nasally for about four seconds, keeping the air inside for a few seconds and gently expelling it through your mouth. Long inspirations are required, a large volume of air entering the body.
By placing one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest, it is possible to check whether the air is being carried correctly to the intended areas. The chest hand should not move when inhaling, while the air should be felt filling the belly.
This training causes parasympathetic control and the decrease in the cardiac rate . It is recommended to try to generalize and automate this type of breathing in order to maintain a certain control over the arousal or level of activation of the body.
3. Complete breathing
This type of breathing combines deep and abdominal breathing in a single technique . The process begins with the expulsion of all the air from the lungs. It proceeds by gently and deeply inspiring to fill the abdomen first, to continue inhaling to also fill the lungs and chest in one inhalation. The air is held for a few seconds and then proceeds to expel orally and slowly first chest and then abdomen.
4. Breathing alternated by the nostrils or Nadi Shodhana
This technique applied generally in the world of yoga is based on the alternation between the nostrils at the time of inspiration. First, one of the nasal passages is covered, to perform a deep inhalation through the free nostril. Once inhaled, we proceed to cover the nasal fossa through which the air has entered and uncover the other, through which the exhalation will take place.
Then the same procedure is repeated, this time starting with the nasal fossa contrary to the previous occasion (that is, for which the exhalation has been performed). This technique seems to be effective in clearing the mind, activating whoever practices it .
5. Fire breathing or Kapalabhati
Another technique coming from yoga . The breathing exercise begins with a slow and deep inspiration, followed by a rapid and forced exhalation from the abdomen. The inhalation-exhalation rhythm is increased every two seconds for a total of ten breaths. It is a very energizing breath, but some caution is recommended since it can cause hyperventilation and abdominal pain. For this reason it is not recommended for people with high anxiety.
6. Breathing to control anger
This type of exercise is especially indicated in situations that provoke anger , in order to control it. Bearing in mind that inhaling causes the arrival of oxygen to the organism, and therefore of energy, it may be advisable that in situations in which we want to control our rage we focus on the exhalation, a process that is usually relaxing and releasing pressure.
For this exercise you will simply exhale strongly, emptying your lungs as much as possible in a long and powerful exhalation. After that we will inhale when our body needs it, to repeat the procedure until the sensation of pressure has diminished.
7. Guided display
Used as a relaxation mechanism, this technique allows especially the mint tranquillization l . It is based on performing a deep and regular breathing while a therapist or recording indicates the type of thoughts or images that the individual should imagine. Generally it is about placing the person in a pleasant mental scenario, which allows him to see his objectives and visualize himself performing them. It is a technique also used in mindfulness.
8. Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation
It is a relaxation technique that includes control of breathing and muscle tension . With closed eyes and a comfortable posture, we proceed to maintain a deep and regular breathing. Subsequently we proceed to make a tour of the set of muscle groups of the body.
Each muscle group will be tensed in periods of three-ten seconds to then rest between ten and thirty (it is recommended that the relaxation period is three times that of tension), making series of three repetitions.
The process of muscle relaxation will begin at the most distal ends of the body, that is, the extremities points farthest from the center of the body, until reaching the head. Thus, the tension-relaxation routine will be started by the feet, to continue through the legs, buttocks, hands, arms, back, chest, neck, jaw and head.
It has been done with some caution since it is common the presence of small cramps, dizziness, tingling or hyperventilation (in case of having them it is recommended to stop the exercise), but it is a very useful technique even in clinical practice.
- Amutio, A. (2002) Stress management strategies: the role of relaxation. C. Med. Psicosom, No. 62/63
- González, A. and I Amigo, I. (2000), Immediate effects of training in progressive muscle relaxation on cardiovascular indexes. Psicothema, 12
- Shapiro, S .; Schwartz, G. and Bonner, G. (1999). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Med; 21: 581-599