If you spent most of 2020 waiting to exhale, now is the time to take a deep breath. “Breathwork and mindfulness practice can plug us back into our natural state of being, which is peaceful,” says Chris Keller, certified yoga and meditation instructor and co-owner of Circle of Renewal, a yoga and meditation center that specializes in female empowerment. “Yogis have known this for a long time, but many more people are starting to see the benefits.” Here are three breathing exercises to try.
Close your eyes and envision drawing a horizontal line from left to right while inhaling for four counts. Then draw a line downward while holding your breath for four counts. Draw another line from right to left while exhaling for four, then draw a line upward to close the box while holding the lungs empty for four more counts. This will help reduce stress and increase concentration. “The secret of box breathing is linking the visualization to the breath,” says Keller.
This technique activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which controls bodily functions when a person is at rest. To start, take a deep inhale for four counts, letting the belly expand. Hold the breath for two counts, then breathe out for six counts. Repeat this technique until you feel rested. “This helps take our body back to balance and gets us out of the ‘fight or flight’ response caused by stress,”
Peaceful Abiding Breath
If you’re struggling with tension or high anxiety, try using a powerful mantra paired with breathwork. Close your eyes and perform a “body check-in,” utilizing your five senses to ground yourself in the world around you. Say to yourself, “I am breathing in peace, I am breathing out tension,” inhaling and exhaling accordingly. Repeat as needed. “Peaceful abiding breath is one of my all-time favorite techniques,” says Keller. “We’re in our heads so much, and something this simple can actually have a huge impact.”