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Author: Arundel Stevens

5 Breathing Techniques for Mind and Balance

Exercises You Can Do Anywhere to Relax and Stabilize

by Arundel Stevens

visual example of box breathing technique – design by Marcello Burdis

1. Box Breathe

How to: This meditation technique goes by many names: “box breathing,” “4×4 breaths,” and “equal breathing”; they all mean the same thing. Here’s how it works:

Visualize a square box. All sides are equally spaced.

Slowly release all the air in your lungs.

Now breathe in and count to 4, imagining a line completing one side of the square!

Hold that breath for 4 more seconds. You have finished another side of the square!

Next, count to 4 as you exhale the air out of your lungs. You have completed the third side!

Finally, hold your breath for 4 more seconds, and you have finished the box breathing exercise!

You can repeat this cycle as many times as you need, or until your breathing naturally slows. This technique helps you practice mindfulness and focus on your breathing. Even paced breaths can calm your nervous system and counting each step keeps a balanced cycle. Counting each step also helps to ground you in time and focus on the moment. This technique is very discreet, and after just a few cycles, the technique is very effective.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing

How to: This trick is pretty easy once you get the hang of it! Just as the name suggests, you are switching back and forth, breathing 

using one nostril at a time.

First, take a deep breath in and close your mouth.

Now, using your finger, close your left nostril and exhale through your right.

Keep your left side plugged, and inhale through your right nostril.

Then, release your left nostril and use your finger to close your right side.

Now exhale through your left nostril.

Keeping your right side closed, inhale through your left nostril.

You have completed a round of alternate nostril breathing! Try to keep each step even and gentle. Complete 4-8 rounds of alternate nostril breathing for best results. This practice helps to center your focus and clear your mind. It helps to remember that the steps follow a pattern: exhale, inhale, switch nostrils, repeat.

3. Humming Bee Breathe

How to: The Humming Bee Breath is often referred to as Bhramari Pranayama, and it is a calming and fun exercise to relax your breathing. 

Begin by sitting cross-legged on the floor with closed eyes.

Use your hands to gently plug your ears and cover your eyelids.

Inhale deeply through your nose.

As you exhale this breath, allow your chest to hum a consistent note. A low bee-like noise is preferable, and you should be able to hear this vibration.

Repeat these last two steps several times and then breathe normally, focusing on evening your breaths. This technique is very handy for creating a mind-body connection. It is important to be able to hear yourself, so it may be necessary to choose a quiet or private location where you can focus on your own meditation routine without distraction.

4. Ujjayi

How to: Ujjayi breathing is a slightly more advanced breathing exercise that may take some practice. The important thing to remember is that this method is meant to help balance your breathing, so if your breathing is calming and slowing, you are doing it right!

First, close your mouth tightly.

Deeply inhale through your nose.

As you exhale through your nose, constrict the muscles in the back of your throat, creating a snoring noise.

Repeat these steps, allowing yourself to adapt the throat noises according to your comfort.

The most important factor in this method is breath control, which is used when you restrict your throat and only allow a certain amount of air to enter or escape at a moment. By flexing your throat muscles, you allow a slightly audible vibration to occur which can calm your mind and balance your breath.


5. Three-part Breath

Three-part breath, or Dirga Pranayama, requires a mind-body connection to help you connect with yourself and circulate air through your body.

1st part:

First, lie on your back and begin to breathe normally. Pay attention to how your breaths affect your body movements.

As you inhale through your nose, allow the air to collect in your belly, expanding as it fills.

As you exhale, push the air out of your belly and let your belly sink in.

2nd part:

Now, take another deep breath that fills your belly. This time, suck in a little more air and let it fill your chest, widening your ribcage.

Exhale, and allow the air to leave your chest first, as your ribs compress again. Exhale out the rest of the air in your belly, too.

3rd part:

Finally, you take a deep breath, filling your belly and lower chest, just like before. This time, inhale even more, filling your upper chest and collarbone area, and allowing your chest to rise.

As you exhale this breath, you let out the air in the upper chest first, then the lower chest, and finally the belly.

As you put all these steps together, remember that you should not be breathing past your limit. Your breathing should be even and natural, not stuffed or overworked. If you are struggling to put the parts together, it can help to put one hand on your belly and one on your lower chest, in order to feel the breath entering and exiting your body. The connection between your breathing and your body’s response is the key focus of this exercise.

Breathing control is important and beneficial, no matter which technique you choose to try. The best thing to remember is that you should find the technique that you feel most comfortable with. Don’t strain yourself or panic about doing something wrong. Whether you are practicing breathing strategies to reduce stress, enhance meditation, or even just as a fun activity, these 5 techniques can provide serious benefits to your health and circulation. Step out of your comfort zone and try a new method!

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