The gym within: Three breath work exercises to try at home

If you’re feeling overworked, sleep-deprived, anxious or stressed out, it might be time to return to your breath. Your breath is one of the most effective tools you can use to combat any of these feelings.

Many studies have found practicing regular, controlled breathing exercises can not only be calming and relaxing, depending on the type of breathing practice, it can also leave you feeling energized and motivated.

Below we share three breath work exercises you can practice anywhere, anytime.

1. The Stimulating Breath (AKA the Bellows Breath)

The aim of this breathing exercise is to raise energy levels and increase alertness
1. Put yourself in a comfortable, seated position with your back supported.
2. With eyes either closed or your gaze focused down onto the floor in front of you, start to inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Both breaths in and out should be equal in duration, keeping them as short as possible.
3. As an example of speed, try breathing in and out three times per second. In between each 3-breath second, take one normal breath.
4. Do not do this breathing practice for more than15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds until you reach a minute.

The result, if done properly, may leave you feeling invigorated, with a sense of heightened awareness (similar to how you feel after a good sweat session at the gym).

2. Pursed Lip Breathing

The aim of this breath exercise is to help you slow down the pace of your breathing by including a more concentrated and deliberate effort with each breath.
1. Put yourself in a seated position, with you back supported. Relax your neck and shoulders.
2. With your eyes or mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for two seconds.
3. Then, purse your lips as though you are going to whistle, and exhale slowly by blowing air through your lips for four seconds.

This particular breathing exercise can be useful during a physically arduous activity, such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing.

3. Lion’s Breath

Lion’s breath aims to give you an energizing breathing practice that may relieve tension in your chest and face.

1. Put yourself in a comfortable seated position with your back supported. Your legs can be crossed, or your feet can be placed on the ground – whichever is more comfortable.
2. Place your palms on top of your knees with your fingers spread wide. Press your hands lightly into your knees.
3. With your eyes wide open, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin and at the same time inhale deeply through your nose for five seconds.
4. Tense the muscles at the front of your throat as you exhale out through your mouth by making a long “ha” sound.
5. At this point you can move your gaze upward between your eyebrows or in front of you to look at the tip of your nose.
6. Do this breathing exercise three times.

Once you have completed the exercises you may notice your face is warm and relaxed, and your chest and stomach calm.

It is useful to take your time to experiment with different types of breathing techniques, and understand which ones work best for you. Try to schedule your routine with these breathing exercises in mind, whether that’s first thing in the morning when you wake up or the last thing you do before you go to sleep. You can also try these breath exercises at any point in your day.

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