Which breathing exercises are best and what should you be trying right now? In this article we explore 3 breathing exercises which will help your breath to support you.
Breathing exercises are in the spotlight right now. The publication of James Nestor’s book ‘Breath’ in paperback has brought renewed attention to this ancient art, you may have even read about it in our article The Lost Art of Breathing. But it is something that yoga practitioners have known about for a long time.
Pranayama literally translates as ‘breath control’ is the oldest continuing practice detailed amongst all the yoga texts. In the hathapradipika – often seen as the manual of hatha yoga, a steady breath is foregrounded as the key tool for a steady mind.
“When the breath is unsteady, the mind is unsteady. When the breath is steady, the mind is steady and the yogi becomes steady. Therefore one should restrain the breath.”(Hathapradipka)
There are certainly some extreme breath practices that yogis have attempted but it is striking how many of the practices stand the test of time.
3 Breathing Exercises
Alternate Nostril Breath
One of the most beneficial breath practices is alternate nostril breathing. James Nestor recounts why this is so effective.
Nestor writes, “Our bodies operate most efficiently in a state of balance, pivoting between action and relaxation, daydreaming and reasoned thought. This balance is influenced by the nasal cycle and may even be controlled by it.” Yoga practitioners have been using alternate nostril breathing to balance their systems for centuries. Alternate nostril breathing is a really wonderful style of breathwork which can be practiced wherever you are. We love it because it really helps to bring the body into a state of balance.
How to practice Alternate Nostril Breathing?
Try this alternate nostril breathing class from Vidya:
A Slow Breath
Did you know slowing your breath helps you relax? And that six breaths per minute is considered optimal? You may know that shallow, rapid breathing causes problems including high blood pressure anxiety and depression. There are all sort of theories about why slowing down your breath helps you to relax and enjoy health benefits. Understanding the mechanics of breathing will help you to breathe better and free yourself from poor breathing habits. Watch this class from Lucy and Ben Parker on the anatomy of breathing.
Currently scientists are theorising that when you take a full breath, one that you really feel, you put pressure on some sensors that gauge the expansion of the lungs. When you exhale, the release of the diaphragm places pressure on sensory receptors close to the heart. Both these receptors feed into the brainstem and the repetitive stimulation leads to slow brain waves which trigger relaxation.
Dan Peppiatt believes that small adjustments make a huge difference. Start by observing your breath. Focused time and attention makes a huge difference to the way you breathe.
One of our most popular courses is Dan Peppiatt’s 10-Day Breath Challenge. It’s a phenomenal course and with the course you’ll really understand the importance of harnessing the power of your breath. Or, just get started with Dan’s class on slowing your breath.
Qigong breathing is easy and combines visualisation with breathing. The most basic practice is to breathe fully into the belly to replenish your stores of energy. In this class from Mimi, you can try two qigong breathing practices.
Why not start to learn to harness the power of your breath right now? It’s a practice that is suitable for all people, all abilities, all levels of mobility, and can be practiced anywhere. Whenever you’re feeling anxious, or in need of balance, your breath is there to help you. Learn more in Dan’s Breathwork Course