No time to breathe?
5 breath exercises for busy lives
Some days we can feel like life is non-stop, from the minute we open our eyes, to the second our head hits the pillow, our never ending to do lists, demands from work and family and making plans for the future, can leave very little time for winding down. It’s hard enough to catch a breath, let alone build a breathing or yoga practice into your daily routine.
For those who are short on time but keen to stay calm, here’s some quick, effective breath exercises, all 3 minutes and under, you can weave into your daily routine to help build a conscious breath routine into the everyday.
2 minutes in the morning
Before you have clambered out of bed, this breath exercise can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own bed.
Transformational Breath technique is known for it’s energising effects and is a great pep up for all the physical systems of the body. It’s a conscious, connected breath and easy to build a short practice on your own.
Prop yourself up on the bed at a semi-reclined angle so your chest is higher than your legs. Make sure you are warm and comfortable, and that your head and neck are properly supported. Have your hands on your lower abdomen – a few inches below the navel. Relax the jaw and open the mouth wide, but not strained, and take a deep inhalation, belly should rise like a balloon, and exhale with a quick sigh.
Keep all your focus on the inhalation. Inhalation should be about twice as long as the exhalation. Exhalation should be short, quiet and relaxed. Keep the breath connected, so no pauses between breaths.
Repeat this conscious connected breath from between two and five minutes (but no more without a breath coach) and notice any physical sensations in the body. Rest for one minute as you return to a normal breathing pattern – breathing through the nose. The mouth may feel a little dry even after a couple of minutes practice so have some water nearby.
1 minute in the shower – The Bond of all breath exercises
James Bond was a huge fan of a blast of cold water at the end of his shower and for good reason. It’s a great boost for the circulation, energy levels and immune system so makes sense to start you day on a cold note. Be brave, try making the final minute of your shower as cold as the dial will allow. To help you through the chilly blast, here’s a breath exercise which will divert your attention from the icy water above.
Just as you turn the dial to cold, inhale through the nose.
Exhale, make a big SWOOOSH sound through the mouth.
Inhale through the nose, exhale with a louder and longer SWOOOOSH sound through the mouth, lips slightly pursed. Repeat for 30 seconds – 1 minute or however long you can bare it! You should feel tingly afterwards and your energy should feel lifted for up to and hour afterwards.
3 minutes at the desk
No time for lunch? Need a shot of energy without the caffeine jitters? This is a great exercise for bringing the energy into the upper chest and can be enjoyed sat down in a chair.
Sitting up tall, uncross the legs and have the feet firmly planted on the floor.
Take your hands behind your back and either clasp opposite elbows or if you have the flexibility, interlace your fingers behind your back, squeezing the shoulder blades gently towards each other. (You may need a low back chair for this or lift your arms behind your back and rest them on the top of the chair, if it comes to shoulder blade height) This should help lift the chest. Raise the chin ever so slightly. If neither of these are doable, adopt the pose in the pic above, hands behind the head, end of the week smile.
Breathe in for a count of 5. Hold for 2
Breathe out for a count of 5. Hold for 2
Repeat for up to 3 minutes. Complete with a few rounds of shoulder shrugs. Inhaling lift the shoulders to the ears, exhaling dropping the shoulders down.
1 minute before a meeting
This is a super quick calmer for those all too stressful times or if you are feeling nervous or need to focus the mind before a meeting. Activating the rest and digest system, focusing the mind on the present moment, opening up the diaphragm, easing stress.
Hold your left hand with your right hand with the right thumb applying pressure to the centre of the palm of the left hand. This acupressure point is for the diaphragm and can help us release tension from the respiratory muscles. Close the eyes and breathe gently with all the focus on the breath and be aware of the light pressure you are placing on the palm of your hand. Breathe in for a count of 5. Hold for a count of 2. Exhale for 7. Repeat on the other hand. This will stimulate the diaphragm and activate the parasympathetic nervous system and induce feelings of calm.
3 minutes before sleep
This is great for encouraging a deeper sleep, releasing stress, stimulating the feel good vagus nerve and calming the mind.
Lay in bed, on your belly, head to one side and make sure the jaw is relaxed. Scan the body to see if you are holding any tension in the fists, arms, legs, allow the body to soften. Close the eyes, using a diaphragmatic breath (breathing in, belly should expand), breathe in through the nose for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 3. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 6. Repeat this for five to ten rounds and allow the body to let go and relax on the exhalation.
On each exhale imagine ‘letting go’ of the day. This should prepare you for a deep sleep. Extending the exhalation helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body feel relaxed and calm.
If you manage to do all of these by the end of the day your body and mind would have enjoyed 10 minutes of conscious breath exercises. Peppering your day with breath exercises will help you check in with your breath and also help you connect with the present moment. Vital for a calm and healthy mind.
Ratio breath exercises can help calm the nervous system. These are only to be practiced if you have established a full diaphragmatic breath. Practice for up to 5 minutes:
Breathe In for 3
Breathe out for 6
Breathe in for 7
Breathe out for 7
Breathe in for 4
Hold for 4
Breathe out for 6
Breathe in for 5
Hold for 4
Breathe out for 7
Copyright Aimee Hartley www.thebreathingroom.co.uk