Meditation has amazing effects on the body, including blood pressure and immune function. There are so many options available for meditation, from apps, to classes, to online videos. I don’t know if this is the same for everyone else, but I find the pressure to ‘clear my mind’ becomes almost debilitating any time I’ve tried to consciously meditate. Something that I’ve found works very well is to focus instead on breathing. If my mind is not exactly clear, it’s at least focused on a single, simple task.
Here are three breathing techniques for relaxation I’ve used successfully. If you’re feeling burned out and you’re as bad at meditating as me 😉 then try one of these breathing exercises for stress relief.
This is a technique you’re probably familiar with if you practice yoga. In a seated cross-legged position, place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, then inhale deeply, feeling your belly and chest expand with your air, then exhale for the same count, as your hands feel your belly and chest fall. This was a technique I loved when I was doing prenatal yoga. Something our teacher said to us really stuck with me – she talked about how when we put our hand on our pregnant belly we were filled with love and joy and we should hold on to that feeling once we’d had the baby and practiced the same breathing pose. Basically it was her way of saying we need to love our body, no matter what stage of life, or what our notions of how our body “should” look and feel. I loved that – place your hands on heart and belly with acceptance and love.
Square breathing is definitely my go-to when it comes to an easy relaxation technique. I think it’s partially because of the visual cue of the square – I can keep the shape in my mind and focus on it as I breathe. I usually do this in savasana pose, but you can really do this anywhere, at any time. Close your eyes and visualize a square. Breathe in for a count of breaths (whatever feels comfortable to you) as you imagine going up the left side of the square. Hold the breath in your lungs for the same count as you go across the top of the square. Exhale for your count as you visualize going down the right side, then hold the breath out of your lungs and count as you trace the bottom line of the square. I also use this technique when I can’t sleep – the rhythm and counting will lull you, just like the old counting sheep trick.
GOOD STUFF/BAD STUFF
You can replace “stuff” with another word if you have a potty mouth. 😉 This is a simple concept and works well when you want to get ‘rid’ of anything bad that’s been weighing on you. This technique is another one you can do anywhere, in any position. As you breathe in, visualize white light drawing in, filling your lungs and your entire body. Imagine the light is enveloping the bad stuff you’re holding in, encasing it in light. Then as you breathe out, the bad stuff is expelled with your breath.
Basically these techniques are forms of meditation…without any pressure on yourself. It’s always good to have tools to combat anxiety or stress in life and hopefully these will help you as much as they help me.
Do you meditate or do breathing exercises?
What’s your technique for combatting stress?