We all get stressed. It’s how we deal with it that sets us apart from those who are running around like college students during finals week trying to cram in as much studying as possible after spotty attendance all semester.
Stress is energy and it needs a place to go. Holding it inside allows the stress to make a home in your body and eventually feeling wound up becomes your status quo.
Feeling stressed out can trigger your sympathetic state or more commonly known as your fight or flight state. I talked about it more in-depth in my last post on the benefits of breathwork, but the basic takeaway is that we spend way too much time in a sympathetic state and need to spend more time in our parasympathetic state that promotes healing and relaxation.
Breathwork is a great tool to trigger that switch!
If you aren’t familiar with breathwork go check out my first post in the series for an intro for beginners on what breathwork is! I’ll be here waiting for you!
*This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.*
Breathwork Practices for Stress
Your breath is a tool you can bring with you anywhere you go and can quickly cut through the noise of a stressed mind to usher in calm and peace.
Here are a few to try out!
4-7-8 Breathing Method
Dr. Andrew Weil is a big proponent of the 4-7-8 breathing method, which helps to reduce anxiety and stress.
Get comfortable. You can lie down or take a seat. You’ll be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
You’re going to inhale for 4 seconds, hold at the top of the inhale for 7 seconds, and exhale slowly for 8 seconds with your lips pursed. This breathing method is calming to our nervous system because the exhale is twice as long as the inhale and the hold at the top allows for us quiet our minds.
What’s important here is the ratio of 4-7-8. So if you can’t hold your breath for that long that’s just fine. Take the breath-hold down by a few seconds, but make sure to adjust the ratio for the inhale and exhale too!
Check out an instructional video if that’s more your jam!
What’s nice about this breathing method is you can do it in line at Starbucks or your desk at work and no one will bat an eye!
1:2 Breathing Method
This one is similar to the 4-7-8 breath, but instead of holding at the top of the inhale you’re just going to go directly into your exhale.
Your exhale is still going to be twice as long as your inhale to trigger that parasympathetic state!
You could inhale for 4 and exhale for 8 or inhale for 6 and exhale for 12. It’s good to challenge yourself and increase your inhales and exhales as you develop greater control over your breathing.
Extended Exhale Breathing Method
This one is my fave to do before bed. It’s like counting sheep but with your breaths. Less cute, but it gets the job done!
This can be done sitting up or laying down.
Just pay attention to the natural rhythm of your breath as it goes in and out for a few cycles.
Let your shoulders drop down from your shoulders.
Begin to lengthen your exhale for 2-3 seconds.
Stay at that length for a few minutes.
Then lengthen the exhale again by another 2-3 seconds.
Continue this cycle of lengthening your exhales, but stay within your comfort zone. There’s no need to push yourself on this and straining to exhale past, where you’re comfortable, will just stress you out more. That’s the opposite of what we want!
Alternate Nostril Breathing Method
This method is also called Nadi Shodhana.
You’ll want to do this one sitting upright.
Take your thumb and close off your right nostril, then inhale through the other nostril. When you can’t breathe in any further release your thumb and close off the left nostril with your ring finger.
Exhale slowly through the now open right nostril.
Inhale through that nostril and repeat the process by closing up your right nostril with your thumb again and opening the left. Then exhale through the left nostril.
Continue for 10 rounds!
Here’s a video to follow since this one can be a bit confusing at first!
Roll Breathing Method
Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet against the floor. if you tend to get cold but on a sweatshirt or keep a blanket close by!
Put your left hand on your lower abdominals and your right hand on your chest.
You’ll be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
Try filling up your diaphragm by breathing into your left hand and sending your breathe down into your pelvic bowl while keeping your chest as still as possible. You’ll be able to feel it with your right hand if you’re breathing too much with your chest.
Practice for a cycle of 10 breaths.
Once you’re comfortable with that add on the second step by inhaling into your chest after you’ve already inhaled into your diaphragm.
So you would start by first inhaling and sending your breath into your belly and then taking a second shorter inhale into your chest. Finally, exhale slowly through your mouth.
Practice this breathing technique for 4 to 5 minutes.
You can speed this up for an energizing breathwork practice, but for now, take it nice and slow. We’ll cover energizing practices in a later post!
How to Begin Implementing a Breathwork Practice for Stress Reduction
The best way to reduce your stress with breathing is to just do it! Breathwork can help you feel more relaxed rapidly, but the more often you do it the more impactful it will be!
Over time your body will find a new, lower baseline for your stress level to sit at and you’ll find it easier to tap into the calm and quiet your breathwork practice brings on.
Without even thinking about it, I’ll start taking deep and calming breaths when I’m stressed out because it’s become a habit for me.
Your body wants to relax. It just needs to relearn how!
Try out some of the above breathwork techniques for stress and journal about how you feel afterward. Did one feel better than the others? Were you less stressed after a certain one?
Once you find a couple of techniques you like then find some room in your schedule to practice regularly.
The biggest mistake you can make is to only practice breathwork when you’re already stressed to the max with nails bitten down and you’re bouncing your legs so much your coworker is about to murder you.
A ball that’s already rolling downhill is a lot harder to stop than one that hasn’t begun its descent yet.
Start by practicing breathwork 10-minutes a day. The easiest way to implement this is to stack it onto another habit you already practice.
By linking your new habit of breathwork to a preexisting one you’re making it more likely that you’ll stick with it because your brain is already used to you doing the first habit AND you’ll have a specific time of when you’re going to practice this new habit!
Let’s say you journal for 10-minutes every night before bed. Try adding 10-minutes of breathwork directly after you’re done with journaling.
Another option would be to practice your 10-minutes after your morning workout.
Find something you do every day and stick your fave breathwork practices after it!
Breathwork for stress reduction can be immensely helpful but only if you use it!
Try out some of the stress reduction breathwork practices above and find a fave or two.
Pick a habit to stack this new habit onto and begin practicing breathwork 10-minutes a day at least 4x a week.
Keep track of your experiences in your free reflection journal so you can note any patterns that come up and experience the changes over time!
Join others on their breathwork journey in the BuddhaBelly BreathWork FB Group and get notifications of free virtual group sessions by hopping on my VIP newsletter!
Stay tuned for next week’s post in the Breathwork Series!
Want to keep reading? Check out these related posts:
- Breathwork Series: What are the Benefits of Breathwork?
- Meditation Series: Part 1
- Meditation Series: Part 2