Sharon Koehler

Stone Industry Consultant

Simple breathing  exercises can restore your calm and lower your blood pressure. Here are a few  examples – find one that works for you.We now know that certain types of noise can help us relax and de-stress when the weight of the world sits on our shoulders.  However, ambient noise is not the only thing that can help relax a body, mind, or soul, and help to get rid of some of the stress we feel on a daily basis.

One powerful tool that we all possess to combat stress is right under our noses – quite literally. Breathing exercises have been used for centuries as a natural and effective method to reduce stress and promote relaxation. By harnessing the power of our breath, we can tap into a calmer state of mind and find relief from the burdens of stress. 

There are several popular and time-tested breathing exercises that can help you find tranquility amidst the chaos:

Deep Belly Breathing – aka Diaphragmatic Breathing or Abdominal Breathing: This exercise helps activate the diaphragm. Start by finding a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise and your chest to remain still. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen lower. Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes at a time, 3 – 4 times a day. Focus on the sensation of the breath filling your belly and the subsequent release as you exhale. This exercise slows down your breathing, increases oxygen flow, and induces a sense of calm. It’s also a great way to relieve a shortness of breath episode from over-exertion. 

Square Breathing - aka Box Breathing: This is a technique that follows a pattern of equal-length inhalations, holds, and exhalations. It helps regulate the breath and encourages mental clarity. Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four. Finally, hold your breath for another count of four before starting the cycle again. Repeat this sequence 4-5 times, several times a day. Focus on the rhythmic pattern and the sense of tranquility it brings.

4-7-8 Breathing: This breathing exercise is simple yet highly effective in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. To begin, find a comfortable seated position. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight, making a whooshing sound. This completes one breath. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. This technique slows down the heart rate, calms the mind, and brings a sense of tranquility.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: Truthfully, this breathing exercise has its roots in yoga.  Alternate nostril breathing is a balancing exercise that helps calm the mind, reduce stress, and increase focus. Sit in a comfortable position and bring your right hand up to your face. Using your right thumb, gently close your right nostril. Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril. Once you reach the top of your inhalation, use your right ring finger or pinky to close your left nostril and release your right nostril. Exhale slowly and completely through your right nostril. Inhale through the same nostril, then close it with your thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale through it. Continue this pattern, alternating nostrils with each breath. Focus on the coolness of the inhalation and the warmth of the exhalation. Repeat for approximately 5 minutes, allowing your body and mind to find balance and peace.

Breath Counting: Breath counting is a mindfulness practice that helps anchor your attention and quiet your racing thoughts. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and close your eyes if it helps you focus. Begin breathing naturally, without attempting to change your breath. With each inhalation, mentally count “one,” and with each exhalation, count “two.” Continue this pattern, counting up to ten breaths. Once you reach ten, start again from one. If you find your mind wandering or losing count, gently bring your attention back to the breath and begin again from one. This exercise helps cultivate focus, reduces mental chatter, and promotes a sense of relaxation.

These are not the only stress relieving breathing exercises. There are others:  Lion’s Breath, Pursed-Lip Breathing, Resonance Breathing and more. Keep in mind that every exercise may not work for every person. If one doesn’t work, try another until you find what works for you. 

Breathing exercises have not only been used to reduce stress. They carry with them a lot of other benefits:

  • Increases calm
  • Relieves pain
  • Increases energy
  • Lowers blood pressure

Let’s face it, there are people, circumstances, and things all around us that stress us out, probably every day. And (I am sorry to say this) the holidays will be on us before we know it, and our stress levels always rise during that time of year. Get a head start on learning which techniques work for you so you can help yourself through the holidays and every day. Imagine yourself with less stress or just feeling better overall. It makes you smile, doesn’t it?

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