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These Breathing Exercises Will Help You Feel Calm And Productive At Home

If the coronavirus pandemic has you feeling stressed, anxious, or unfocused right now, you’re far from alone. With many of us living the entirety of our lives from within our homes, it can be difficult to feel productive or calm throughout the day.

Luckily, one of the single most effective strategies for reducing stress—and even giving yourself an energy boost—is free and easy to do anywhere. All you need: your breath.

Yep, certain breathing exercises (a.k.a. breath-work) can help relieve pain, increase energy, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion. One study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies even found that breath-work can support your immune system—and that’s a perk we could all benefit from right now.

Breathing exercises can also provide some much-needed relief from overwhelm. “Through slow, steady breathing, we can actually train our brains to slow down,” explains Chicago-based corporate wellness trainer and yoga instructor Stephanie Mansour. “Not in a sluggish way—but, rather, in a useful way.”

Whatever emotions you’re feeling throughout your day, these breathing exercises will help you find balance and relief.

When You’Re Ready To Start The Day

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed our morning routines. To start your day off on the right foot, meditation and yoga instructor Matthew Milèo recommends a breathing exercise called the “lion’s breath.”

Read More: Craving Structure? This Daily Routine Will Keep You Healthy (And Sane)

“This breathing style, which comes from Lion’s Pose in Hatha yoga, helps clear out congestion that has accumulated from sleeping,” he says. “It also heightens your senses, so it’s a great way to start your day.”

How to do it:

  1. Sit or stand and open your mouth as wide as possible.
  2. Stretch out your tongue and reach it down.
  3. Inhale.
  4. Once you feel the muscles at the front of the throat contract, exhale forcefully and make a roaring “haaaa” sound, feeling the air pass over the back of the throat. 
  5. Repeat two to five times.

When You’re Feeling Anxious Or Stressed

If waves of anxiety hit you throughout the day, the right breathing exercise can slow your heart rate and racing mind.

By breathing in just half the amount of air you feel you can fit into your lungs, you shift your nervous system into a parasympathetic (a.k.a. “rest and digest”) state. This lowers your heart rate and activates your calming vagus nerve, according to Florida-based breath-work instructor and yoga teacher Dani Mae.

How to do it:

  1. Breathe through your nose to fill your belly halfway.
  2. Pause for two seconds.
  3. Place tongue behind top front teeth and exhale through your mouth as slowly as possible (10-plus seconds).
  4. Repeat for three to five minutes.

When You Feel Unfocused And Unproductive

Can’t seem to get it together enough to actually get anything done, whether it’s work or household chores? Give this popular breathing style a try.

Read More: What Causes Brain Fog—And What Can You Do About It?

“Traditionally called “Ujjayi breath,” “Victorious Breath” allows the flow of oxygen to gently pass through the base of the throat, explains Milèo. “This creates a soft but audible sound on both the inhales and exhales, building energy and generating heat, which centers the mind and strengthens the body.”

How to do it:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four second, allowing your throat to relax and feel heavy so you feel like you’re inhaling through a straw.
  2. Exhale through your nose for four counts, as if trying to fog up a mirror.
  3. Repeat for one to two minutes.

When You Feel Generally Wiped Out

Research suggests a strong link between increased stress and decreased motivation. According to yoga instructor Tara Lynn Hubbard, founder of Om the Go, this has everything to do with decreased oxygen intake. “When you’re stressed you unconsciously participate in shallow breathing, a sign of your sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system being triggered,” she says. In time, this leaves you pretty exhausted.

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Here, too, breathing exercises can help. To boost your oxygen intake, Hubbard recommends a three-part deep breathing practice called Dirga Swasam.

How to do it:

  1. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or in a chair.
  2. Relax with your hands down, palms facing up above your knees and thighs.
  3. Inhale for six counts, imagining yourself filling up with breath (like water fills a glass).
  4. Pause for two counts.
  5. Exhale for six counts, imagining the air being “poured” out of you.
  6. Repeat up to 15 times.

When You Want To Relax Before Bed

Before bed, Milèo swears by what’s known as the Wym Hof breathing method to fully relax his body. “This breathing exercise improves my sleep, so I wake up feeling rested and refreshed by morning,” he says. “It prepares my body for such a deep relaxation that sleep just seems like the best next step.”

How to do it:

  1. Get comfortable either sitting or lying down.
  2. Inhale deeply through either the nose or mouth for four seconds.
  3. Exhale through the mouth for seven seconds.
  4. Repeat for about 30 breaths.
  5. After the last exhalation, hold your breath for at least eight seconds.
  6. Inhale one last big breath, and hold for 15 seconds before exhaling naturally. 
  7. Repeat for up to 4 rounds.

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