One of the most well-known aspects of mindfulness is breathing. Not just as a part of mindfulness, but as a part of most sports and martial arts, of music and acting; learning to control your breathing, to a degree, is a key aspect of learning to control your body and your mood. There are a variety of breathing techniques that can be used to self-soothe through a particularly strong moment of anxiety, relax yourself during moments of high emotion in general, or energize and focus yourself when you need it the most. Here are 6 simple techniques to enhance relaxation and focus that you can try today.
Square/Box Breathing This style of breathing has a rather easy to recall formula, and can be used for a variety of purposes, from decreasing anxiety to working through insomnia, and has been shown to benefit those in professional industries like nursing and the army.
Inhale for four seconds.
Hold your breath for four seconds.
Exhale for four seconds.
Repeat this process four times.
This 4x4 method is reminiscent of the formation of a square, or a box, hence the name of this style of breathing. You can also add a hold for 4 at the bottom of the exhale if you like.
This style of breathing is meant to promote relaxation in the body and quietness in the mind.
Start by simply breathing in through the nose for a count of four.
Breathe out through the mouth for a count of eight.
One hand can be placed on the chest and the other on the stomach to feel the sensation of breathing more deeply.
Repeat for around three to six times.
A mantra may be used when breathing in and out respectively to enhance the focus on the exercise itself rather than wandering thoughts. For example, “in” and “out”, or “one” and “two”.
This style of breathing is meant to promote our oxygen intake, allowing our bodies to relax and our minds to think clearly. In some ways, this is an extension of deep breathing and holds some similarities.
You may sit in a chair or lie down, though the latter is preferred.
Place a hand on your stomach and pay attention to the way it expands as you breathe in deeply.
Extend your belly all the way out as you inhale, as though filling a balloon.
Pay attention also to the changes as you breathe out.
Exhale with the reverse sensation of releasing all that air out of the balloon, by sucking your belly in all the way.
Repeat a few times.
The goal is to keep your focus on the sensation felt both in your stomach and through the hand placed on your stomach.
This style of breathing is a fast-paced exercise meant to energize and focus, almost like a sped-up variant of belly breathing.
Sit down comfortably and place a hand or both on your stomach.
Breathe in as deep and fast as you can, expanding your belly all the way out.
Exhale strongly through your nose, sucking your belly in as quickly as you can.
Repeat for three to six times before resuming your usual breathing pattern.
Keep your focus on your exhale, and slowly increase the speed of your breathing as you become more accustomed to the exercise.
Modified Lion Breath
This style of breathing is often aimed at children but this is a skill that everyone can benefit from. The aim is to allow your body to express strong emotions in a constructive manner without being overwhelmed.
Find a comfortable position to sit in.
Breathe in as deeply as you can through your nose, until you have reached the extent to which your stomach can hold that air.
Breathe out through your mouth quickly and with force.
Punctuate the exhale with a “Haaa!” sound.
Repeat this process a few times, until you feel a little better.
The focus here is the release is primarily on the release, expelling tension with each loud exhale.
This style of breathing is meant to relax the body and help you catch your breath.
Begin by noticing each breath out, and count each exhale.
Then, start counting how long it takes to naturally inhale and exhale.
Increase the length of the count by one with each breath, until you reach at least the count of four.
This method is also the best practice for calming oneself from panic/anxiety attacks, or guiding someone else through one.