A popular breathing technique in yoga and meditation practices is alternate nostril breathing. It's highly regarded for its ability to calm the mind and reduce stress, and can also help those struggling to fall asleep.
It creates balance in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. Also when you practice alternate nostril breathing, you synchronise the left and right parts of your brain, resulting in a calmer, more focused mind.
How to Do It
- Sit in a comfortable position, your right hand near your nose.
- With the right thumb, close the right nostril and inhale as slowly as possible through the left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Pause. Open the right nostril and exhale through it slowly.
- Inhale through the right nostril, then close it with your thumb. Pause. Open the left nostril and exhale through it slowly.
- Inhale through the left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Pause before opening the right nostril and exhaling through it slowly.
- Inhale through the right nostril before closing it with your thumb again.
- Repeat for at least 10 cycles. When alternating nostrils, practice gently, rhythmically, and slowly.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing Practice
This breathing practice combines breathing and relaxation techniques, where you breathe slowly and deliberately from your diaphragm, and through your nose and back of your throat.
Relaxation techniques are then introduced and practiced in unison with the breath.
This practice is also sometimes called the Papworth Method.
Studies have also found the Papworth method effective in relieving symptoms of asthma. Many asthmatics have problems sleeping at night and this technique helps them fall and stay asleep, while simultaneously retraining the unconscious habit of mouth-breathing.
How to Do It
The Papworth method involves slowly breathing in through your nose and breathing out through pursed lips as though your blowing out a candle. The aim is to make sure your exhale is double the length of your inhale, and that you’re breathing using the diaphragm and abdomen instead of the chest.
3. The “4-7-8” Breath
This form of deep, rhythmic breathing is for times of heightened stress and can also help ease you into sleep if you're feeling particularly fractious. It's known to soothe a racing heart and calms feelings of over-whelm and anxiety.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique helps bring the body into a state of ‘rest and digest.’ It’s highly recommended if you’re experiencing anxiety, or you're consumed by your mind and caught up in habitual overthinking.
Also known as the “relaxing breath,” this technique can help you get to sleep in one minute.
Scientific studies suggest six weeks of practicing yoga pranayamic breathing, may have a positive effect on your heart rate variability. It's also been found to reduce long term chronic stress, improve cognition, and relieve anxiety.
How to Do It
- Get in a comfortable seated position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.
- Empty the lungs of air.
- Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds.
- Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds.
- Repeat for at least 10 cycles.
There are many research-backed benefits of regularly practicing breathing techniques. These include stress reduction, better sleep quality, and improved health.
Try practicing these three exercises as you prepare to go to sleep including them in your nightly routine.
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