What is the first thing you do when stress starts building up? Or what about those times that you have overexerted yourself and start to feel burnt out and tired? And what about those nights where you lie in bed feeling exhausted, but you just can’t sleep?
Maybe you try to make a cup of tea, binge on some junk food, or even go for a walk. If you can’t get some sleep, you may reach for your phone, count some sheep, or try to read a book.
While a lot of these responses can be effective, there is one technique that you can also try in situations like these – breathing exercises. Sometimes called belly breathing or deep breathing techniques, these exercises are said to have several good benefits. Some benefits may include stress relief, lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and better core muscle stability. It also helps your body cope with strenuous activity or exercises and make you feel less tired.
It is also said that regular practice of breathing exercises may stop chronic stress from constantly haunting you. Chronic stress is different from acute stress (which is momentary) as it is felt for a prolonged period. Chronic stress will place the sufferer in a constant state of worry, panic, and threat.
There are many types of breathing exercises that are being practised around the world. Chances are, if you are a practitioner of activities like yoga and tai-chi, then you might already be familiar with how breathing exercises work. So, with that, let’s discuss some commonly used ones.
1. Equal Breathing
Said to be a great breathing exercise for those who want to start relaxing to get ready for bed. Equal breathing is touted as having similar effects to the counting sheep technique. This is something that people who have trouble sleeping should try out.
How it works:
Start in a lying or sitting down position and get as comfortable as you can get. Try closing your eyes or keep them open depending on your preference. Start inhaling for four counts and then exhale for another four. Keep in mind that all inhalations and exhalations should be done through the nose to add a bit of resistance to your breath.
Once you are already comfortable doing this, try increasing the count to 6-8 seconds.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Feeling a little too much tension in your body? Then give this technique a shot. Progressive Muscle Relaxation works by tensing and then relaxing some muscles in your body to wean off excess tension from your head to toe.
How it works:
Close your eyes and start tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups, do this by inhaling through your nose and holding that for five seconds while tensing your muscles. Then exhale through the mouth as you release the tension. Go lower to upper by starting with your feet and toes, then your knees, thighs, chest, then your arms, neck, your jaw, and then your eyes.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Getting out of focus because of stress? Then try this next exercise which is said to help in getting you to refocus and to reenergize yourself. So, before you grab that cup of coffee, give alternate nostril breathing a try.
How it works:
Start off by sitting in a comfortable position. Then stick out your dominant hand and press the tips of your middle and pointer fingers towards your palm. So that leaves your thumb, ring, and pinky fingers still extended.
Bring your hand up to your face and using your thumb press the outside of one of your nostrils. Inhale deeply through your open nostril and at the very top of your inhalation, release the thumb and then use your ring finger to press the outside of the other nostril, and then exhale.
Continue this for about two minutes and then switch sides.
4. Relaxing Breath
Sometimes called the “4-7-8 breathing,” this is another great breathing exercise that helps your body and mind relax and is useful for those who find it hard to sleep. This breathing exercise can be used as a great alternative to equal breathing.
How it Works:
Sit or lie down, whichever you prefer. Close your eyes and press the tip of your tongue so it touches the roof of your mouth. Open your mouth a bit and slowly exhale first. Once you have reached the end of your breath, close your mouth and use your nostril to inhale for four counts. Then hold the air in for seven counts. Lastly, exhale through your mouth slowly for about eight counts.
Repeat about four times.
5. Rib Stretch
This type of exercise can be done while standing up and will fit those who want to get in some good deep breathing during certain situations like standing in a long queue or riding in the MRT with no seats available.
How it Works:
Stand up and arch your back a bit. Inhale slowly through your nostrils until you have reached your limit and hold for about ten seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this ten times.
Give it a Try and You Might Just Surprise Yourself!
Breathing exercises have been around for centuries and usually goes hand in hand with meditation. Regularly doing breathing exercises can help improve blood flow and fight off stress, so why not give it a shot?
Always take care of your body – keep an active lifestyle, eat healthy, and sleep well. Other than taking care of your mental and physical health, you should also protect yourself against potential health risks in the future. Consider purchasing one of our comprehensive health insurance plans for your protection..
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