We often find ourselves stressed and overworked without giving ourselves time to pause and clear our minds. Focused breathing is a valuable tool to practice de-stressing in only a few short minutes. Here are some techniques that I find helpful:

1. Belly Breathing

This is a good one to start with if you have zero to little experience with breathing exercises. You can do this one seated or lying down, whichever you prefer.

Place your right hand on your belly (just below the ribs), and your left hand on the centre of your chest. Begin to breath through your nose, and notice how you are breathing (just into the chest, or into the chest and belly?).

Then, take a deep inhalation in through your nose, feeling only the hand on the belly lift. Exhale through your mouth and gently press the right hand down onto the belly to help push out the breath, again keeping the hand on the chest quite still to ensure you are breathing in and out of the belly.

Repeat 10-20 cycles or a for a few minutes.

2. Two-One Breathing

Sit in a comfortable position with the head, neck and torso aligned. Feel free to lift your hips with a pillow or blanket, sit against a wall, or even in a chair.

Close your eyes softly and begin to breathe in and out of your nose. Make sure you are breathing fully into the belly and chest. Inhale for a count of two, pause for one second, and then exhale for a count of four.

Repeat this cycle for 3-5 minutes. If you feel like the duration of the breaths is too short, increase to 4 in and 8 out.

If you begin to feel anxious or short of breath (like gasping before your inhale), begin to shorten the length of the breath. The point here is to make the exhales longer than the inhales so you can calm your nervous system and the overworked mind.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is a good one to help you practice breathing in and out of the nose. Personally, this is one of my favourites as it helps me relax when I’m feeling stressed and also helps me focus when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Begin in a comfortable seated position (option to sit against the wall if that helps you). Place your right hand in front of your face, with your index and middle fingers lightly touching the third eye area.

First, take a couple of natural breaths, then block your left nostril with your right pinky or ring finger and inhale through your right nostril.

After the inhalation, block the right nostril with your thumb, and unblock the left nostril so you can exhale through the left. Keep the left side unblocked, and take a deep breath in through the left side, and then block the left, and unblock the right nostril as you exhale through the right.

Basically you switch the blocked nostril after each inhale. Continue this cycle about 10-20 times. After the alternating, place your right hand down and breath in and out of the nose evenly for at least 5 more breaths.

Thoughts and Feedback

Try all three of the exercises and see what works best for you. I recommend doing these at least a few times a week, and/or whenever needed if you are feeling stressed or finding it hard to relax. Feel free to comment with any questions or if you have found these exercises helpful :)