The benefits of controlled breathing, known as breathwork, are truly incredible. From the monks and shamans of years long past to countless corporate executives and professional athletes of the present day, breathing has long been found to be a simple, effective way to more effectively manage our emotional and physiological balance. Dan Brulé, a former deep sea diver for the US Navy and widely known pioneer in the field of breathwork, recently authored a short list of easy to learn techniques to help “breathe away stress and anxiety.” The secret, he writes, is the combination of conscious awareness, deliberate relaxation, and paced breathing, practiced regularly on a daily basis.
The first step might seem familiar to you, as it is quintessential mindfulness training. You have to tune in to your breathing, noticing whether or not it is fast or slow, deep or shallow, smooth or jagged. After figuring out your breath patterns, begin to observe the effect it has on your body. What are the sensations of the breath coming in and out? What are your muscles doing? Are they tensed or relaxed? Start noticing your breath intermittently throughout the day, particular in times of stress.
The next step involves breathing deeply and rhythmically as well as how to properly exhale. You should learn how to take four to eight breaths a minute, for this is the “therapeutic zone” of breathwork. A good idea is to aim for six breaths a minute to begin with, then adjust accordingly. Of course, remember to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. In terms of the exhale, you should “lean in” when you breathe out. Essentially, this means lengthening your exhale as necessary, not rushing into the next breath, and taking a moment to enjoy a sense of calm stillness before breathing in once more. Try this three times a day for around five minutes each time.
The final tip to “breathing stress away” is the most fun. Whenever you feel anxious or stressed, stretch your body while taking in a big yawn or several deep sighs of relief. It doesn’t hurt to make satisfying noises while you’re at it, either. Next time you feel overwhelmed at work or find yourself worrying about things yet to come, know that the answer may be as simple as a few deep breaths.