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  • Jade Beckett

3 breath practices to reduce stress & anxiety

Our breath is a super powerful tool. We breathe roughly 20,000 times a day - and how often do we actually really pay attention to it?


Breathwork has been proven to have a tangible effect on stress and anxiety symptoms, feelings of distress and many more conditions, and breath practices are recommended by the NHS to those undergoing treatment for stress and/or anxiety and/or depression.


Here's 3 of my favourites.


You might notice in the image above I have one hand onto my chest below my collar bones and the other hand onto my stomach. This is a great grounding technique, and allows you to feel where you are breathing from - so feel free to give this a go in conjunction with the exercises below.

1. Extended Exhale


How to: Sit comfortably or stand - whatever suits you.

Inhale through the nose for 4 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Exhale through the nose for 7 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Repeat for 3-5 minutes.


Why this works: Our exhalation is linked to stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of our system that looks after our rest and digest response. When we are stressed we tend to breath in a shallow and fast way and we don't fully exhale, which fires up our sympathetic nervous system. When we exhale fully, smoothly and deeply we are basically telling our body we are safe, there's no need to fire us full of stress hormones (cortisol) and this breath with a structured longer exhale is ideal in stressful situations to help calm us down.

2. Box Breath (Samavritti breath)


How to: Sit comfortably or stand - whatever suits you.

Inhale through the nose for 4 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Hold the breath for 4 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Exhale through the nose for 4 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Hold the breath for 4 counts (can be shorter, or longer!)

Repeat for 3-5 minutes.


Samavritti = Sanskrit "Sama" equal, "vritti", flow/rotation.


Why this works: This one is a little bit more complicated to get to grips with but essentially, all parts of the breath are equal (like the sides of a box). The idea being, we are learning to balance each part of breath, inhale, retention, exhale and retention - ultimately bringing the mind and body into equilibrium; getting rid of stress and anxiety, over stimulation, worry and so on. This one is also great for aiding focus before meditating or a task that needs it!


3. Releasing Breath


How to: Sit comfortably or stand - whatever suits you.

Inhale through the nose fully, bringing in as much air as you can.

Exhale fully through the mouth - making a big sighing noise, letting the body relax too.

Repeat 3 times.


Why this works: This breath signals the body to relax as well as the mind, physically releasing tension, thoughts and anything else going on - just letting it go. You might find you feel a bit lighter with less on your mind after this practice. The science behind this is very similar to the extended exhale with regards to activating your parasympathetic nervous system.

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