I don't know about you, but I can get easily stressed out. Modern life isn't exactly a walk in the park. But thankfully, you don't need to spend loads of money or time ridding yourself of worry. Apparently, breathwork is the secret to a calmer day, according to wellness guru Danielle Copperman, who practices breathing exercises on the daily.
We've talked about the importance of breathing before and how it can be a simple, quick and free way to de-stress when life throws you a curveball. But Copperman doesn't just use breathwork as a cure. She uses breathing techniques as a preventative, too. There is one breathwork sequence she uses on the regular and two that are cooling for days when you're really feeling frazzled.
So what are you waiting for? Breathe your way into a better day.
Breath Retention Pranayama
The morning is an ideal time to practice pranayama (prana meaning life force and ayana meaning to extend or draw out) before your mind has the chance to start worrying too much about the day ahead. When you wake up with morning anxiety, focused breathing is a simple technique to help stop any kind of irrational thoughts and negative feelings in their tracks, preventing them from developing into a full-blown bout of stress that’ll stay with you throughout the day. Meditating in the morning instills not only a sense of calm but also an established sense of awareness and consciousness, which in many ways will help you experience more deeply, and feel more present in each moment.
- Stand, sit or lie in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet and undisturbed environment. Rest your hands on your knees if sitting on the floor, or by your side if standing, sitting on a chair or lying down. Notice any internal or external sensations such as thoughts and feelings or outside noise and distractions, and without trying to change anything, focus on nothing but settling.
- With eyes open or closed and breathing in and out through your nose, become aware of the rhythm of your breath, relaxing your shoulders, your neck, and your head. Begin to deepen the breath, taking a long inhale through the nose and exhaling fully to expel every last inch of the breath from your lungs. Observe how the breath feels entering and exiting the nose and the way the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
- On an inhale, notice when your lungs reach full capacity and pause for a moment before exhaling fully. As you take your next inhalation, count the length of your breath, in seconds, pause at the top of your inhale for the same number of seconds you inhaled for, and exhale for the same number of seconds. Repeat this cycle a couple of times, and if the breath allows, gradually increase the length of each inhalation, breath retention, and exhalation, keeping the ratio 1:1:1.
- Allow a few weeks of practicing daily before extending the length of retention. Over time, increase to 8 seconds, but beginners are advised to work at 4 to 6 seconds. The practice should feel natural, effortless and entirely free from strain. As you retain the breath, feel as if the oxygen is sinking in and distributing itself, filling the tissues of your body.
- You can either repeat the same counts in one practice (for example, working to a count of three for your entire practice) or you can increase the number of counts within one practice (for example, working to a count of three, inhaling, pausing and exhaling, and then increasing to a count of four, inhaling, pausing and exhaling, and then increasing again to five and maybe six, to however many seconds you can breathe comfortably).
Practice for up to 5 minutes, and sit in stillness for a few moments to readjust, before continuing your day. Once you are familiar with this practice and feel comfortable to develop further, work to a ratio of 1:2:3, for example, if you inhale for the count of 2, hold the breath for 4 and exhale for 6.
These two cooling techniques are ideal for regulating body temperature. The sitali involves creating a straw-like shape with the tongue and inhaling through it; as the air passes through the tongue, it collects moisture. If you can't roll your tongue, use the sitkari method. This breathing technique is also thought to reduce anxiety, regulate the natural appetite and hydrate your system.
- Sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor with crossed legs on the floor or on a chair with your feet flat, however, it is comfortable, ensuring the head, neck, and spine are aligned.
- Close your eyes and breathe naturally for a few moments. Relax the mouth and then drop the jaw open, as if you were about to make a low ah sound.
- Curl the sides of your tongue inwards to form a tube-like shape, and then poke it out of your mouth slightly, but with little effort.
- Inhale deeply through the tongue, as if drinking the air in through a straw. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath and the rise of your abdomen, rib cage, and chest. Retain the breath here for 5 to 10 counts, or release it instantly as directed in step 5.
- Draw the tongue back inside your mouth, bring your lips together comfortably and exhale slowly through the nostrils.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 10 to 20 times or however many times feels comfortable, and bring the practice to a close when you feel cooled and content.
- Sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor with crossed legs on the floor or on a chair with your feet fat, however, it is comfortable, ensuring the head, neck, and spine are aligned.
- Close your eyes and breathe naturally for a few moments, then gently bring your lower and upper teeth together. Part your lips as much as you can to expose your teeth.
- Inhale slowly through the teeth, letting the airflow through the gaps between each tooth, and focus on the feeling of the air against your teeth, entering the mouth, filling your abdomen, lungs and ribcage, and on the hissing sound of the breath.
- Close your mouth, relax the jaw and the teeth and exhale slowly through the nose.
- Repeat steps three and four 10 to 20 times or however many times feels comfortable, and bring the practice to a close when you feel cooled and content.