3 Breathing Exercises to Help You Reduce Stress

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While on Winter break, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family. I’ve also been trying to catch up on some reading.

Lately, I’ve been reading Dr. Weil’s articles on how to reduce anxiety through breathing exercises. Here are some excerpts from his books that Ive found most helpful:

The Stimulating Breath
Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle. If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout.

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • 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, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Breath Counting
If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice. Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary. To begin the exercise, count one to yourself as you exhale. The next time you exhale, count two, and so on up to five. Then begin a new cycle, counting one on the next exhalation. Never count higher than five, and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to eight, 12, even 19. Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.

Read about the specifics of each breathing exercise . . .

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