It’s a simple concept. But so often we forget. Breathing is essential to living. It keeps us functioning, it keeps us healthy, and keeps us alive! And yet, there’s so much we really don’t know about breathing.
There are so many scientific benefits to incorporating a breathing practice into your day to day life. Breathing practices help us de-stress, they help us slow down, and they help us increase our heart rate variability.
Some really practical benefits to incorporating breathing practices in your daily life include:
- Stimulation of your vagus nerve.
- Bringing your body back to homeostasis after a stressful event.
- Increased ability to respond rather than “react” to various situations.
- Increased blood flow to various organs of the body.
- Boosts your body’s immune system by regulating internal bodily functions.
Breathing, again, seems really simple. However, there are lots of various TYPES of breathing practices you can do for different response types. Below we have listed and described various breathing techniques you might want to try at home:
Alternate Nostril Breathing
What the heck? How do I alternate my nostrils? And why? Alternate nostril breathing is a great way to stimulate your vagus nerve, increase your heart rate variability, and bring your body back to homeostasis much faster after a stressful event has occurred. Alternate nostril breathing also helps balance your left brain/right brain, and increase oxygen flow to various parts of the body.
So how do you alternate nostril breathe? Practice the following steps:
1- Start by taking your right hand and raising it in the air. The place your pointer finger and middle finger together make the mocking jay symbol.
2- Place your middle finger and pointer finger in between the eyebrows, and then wiggle your thumb and ring finger to take notice of where they are in space.
3- Then you will take one full breath in through both nostrils, and exhale through both nostrils.
4- To begin alternate nostril breathing, you will plug the right nostril with your thumb. Then, take a deep inhale through the left nostril.
5- Release the right thumb, and plug in the left nostril with your ring finger. Then exhale through right nostril.
6- Inhale through right nostril, then plug with thumb, release ring finger, & exhale through left nostril.
7- You will continue to move in this pattern always switching upon your exhales.
8- Feel free to breathe in this manner for a minimum of 2 minutes, but really for however long you might need to calm down.
Feel free to utilize your alternate nostril breathing multiple times throughout the day to stimulate the vagus nerve, not just when you’re stressed. The more you practice outside of stress, the easier it becomes to utilize when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Bumble Bee Breath
Bumble bee breath is just like it sounds. Bumble bee breath simulates a buzzing sound when utilized properly. It allows your to be within your own internal world, block out any sort of external distress, and again stimulates that vagus nerve through creating vibrations within the body.
Bumble bee breath helps block out visuals, and really helps you tune into yourself. This breathing technique is great for individuals with sensory issues to their external environments (autism, anxiety, sensory processing disorder). How to do bumble bee breath:
1- You will being by plugging your ears with your thumbs (this blocks out any sort of environmental noise).
2- You will then allow your fingers to cover your eyes blocking out visual distress.
3- Take a deep inhale through the nose.
4- As you exhale, exhale while “humming” out the breath.
5 – Repeat this at least 7 times.
Utilizing bumble bee breath, really helps to lengthen the exhales over the inhales which naturally slows down the heart rate even faster. This will inevitably bring the body back to a state of normal homeostasis much faster than regular deep breathing might.
4, 6, 8 Breath
And last but not least, this 4, 6, 8 breathing can be a great tool again to lengthen those exhales over the inhales. This one is pretty self explanatory based on the numbers, but let me explain how it works exactly:
1- You will begin in a comfortable seat.
2- Then you will take an inhale for a count of 4.
3- After inhaling for 4, you will hold the breath at the top for a count of 6.
4- Once you’ve held your breath for 6, you will start exhaling for a count of 8.
5 – Repeat as many times as necessary to feel calm and relaxed again.
Again, this is a breathing practice sure to allow that heart rate to really sllooowwww down. Bring the body back down, relaxing the nervous system, and creating a since of self-control and calm.
Try this at home, with a loved one, or while driving in your car. Again, the more you practice these coping skills outside of a stressful event, the easier they will become to utilize when the stressful events arise.