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When you’re under stress, your breath may be faster than normal, or you might find that you’re unconsciously holding it in. Consider this a reflection of how your nervous system is faring. The good news is that you can use conscious breathing techniques, or pranayama, to bring it back to a rest and digest state, and limit the damaging effects of stress.
When faced with uncertainty and feeling ungrounded, Melissa Eisler, a certified leadership coach, mindfulness facilitator, and author, recommends breathing exercises that focus on the exhalation. “These are particularly helpful in managing anxiety and stress because our exhales are neurologically tied to the relaxation response in the brain,” she says. “That’s why we sigh when we are relieved!”
See also Breathe Easy: Relax with Pranayama
When you practice calming breathing techniques regularly, it can also boost focus and immunity. According to a 2018 study from the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute, breathing can regulate levels of noradrenaline—a chemical released when you focus, Your body produces too much when you’re stressed and too little when you’re tired, but just the perfect amount when you slow your breath down and practice calming pranayama. Researchers found that shallow breathing tends to keep the body in a cycle of stress, which can make you more prone to illness.
“During times of crisis and high stress breathing practices help us to focus on what is occurring within us now and to generate peace and calm in the midst of the unknown, says Shems Heartwell, a life and relationship coach. “We may not have the ability to change the circumstances or situations we are in, but we do have the ability to shift how we respond to them.”
Create space and wellness by grounding yourself with these nine pranayama techniques and practices.
9 pranayama practices
Conquer Ujjayi breath to prepare you for all other formal pranayama, as well as quiet the brain and slow your flow.
Mindful Breathing for Tough Emotions
Discover mindful breathing and how it can help you dealing with daily ups and downs.
6 Breath Practices for a Stressful Day at Work
Learn six breathing practices that can help make a stressful day at work turn calmer.
Single Nostril Breath
Learn the two versions of Single Nostril Pranayama: Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).
Intentional Breath Retention
Discover the two types of Kumbhaka: breath after an inhale (antara) and after an exhale (bahya).
Fast-Paced and Resting Breaths
This advanced pranayama can help you and a friend or family member share feedback in a constructive way. Who doesn’t need help with that?
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Pursue laughter in your practice with Simha pose (lion pose) to blow off some steam, wake up your face, and lighten up.
Discover Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breath, to help reduce stress.
Learn Svara Yoga Pranayama for increased breath awareness and control on and off your mat.