Breathe Your Way to Relaxation: Breathwork for Beginners
Stress is everywhere in modern life and can have an impact on our health and weight. Having different mindfulness and relaxation techniques in our self-care toolbelts is essential to reaching our healthy living goals.
One stress-relieving methodology is breathwork or intentional deep breathing exercises. It’s a good self-care method for beginners because it doesn’t take much time, it’s absolutely free, and you probably already know the basics (you do breathe every day, after all).
Shallow vs Deep Breathing
Raise your hand if you’ve ever sucked in your belly in public because you were self-conscious of your body sticking out. (Us too.) But did you know doing this actually makes your breathing shallower and limits the amount of oxygen you’re taking in? It’s just another way beauty image standards impact our health.
If your stomach is sucked in, then you’re breathing with your chest—and you’re only breathing half the air. Proper deep breathing comes from the abdomen. Also called diaphragmatic, abdominal, and belly breathing, breathing deeply activates the diaphragm (the muscle underneath your lungs) and causes your abdomen to expand.
Benefits of Breathwork
When we take deeper breaths, we get more oxygen into our bodies which slows our heart rate and helps us calm down. The opposite of deep breathing is shallow breathing—these are the kinds of breaths you take when you’re stressed. But shallow breathing can also trigger anxiety due to your lungs not getting a full gulp of air.
By focusing on your breath and taking deep, intentional breaths you can slowly submerge yourself into the relaxation response and discover stress relief. Some credit a Harvard doctor with developing breath exercises to trigger the relaxation response, but intentional breathing has been around for thousands of years. Practitioners of yoga believe breath is the core life force—so you could say it’s pretty important to get right.
Beginner Breathwork: Breath Focus
Interested in breathing your way to less stress? This simple breathwork exercise is a great place to start.
- Find a quiet place to sit or lie down.
- Start with a normal breath.
- Then, take a deep breath—slowly inhaling through your nose while letting your chest and lower belly expand fully.
- Exhale slowly and fully through your nose or mouth, depending on your personal preference.
Repeat for at least 5 minutes.
Becoming conscious of your breath can not only be a game-changer for relaxation—it can also be a good boost for your workouts. Yoga and tai chi are both types of movement that specifically emphasize breath, but learning to breathe deeply and properly can help you improve cardiovascular strength and build endurance for any type of exercise.
So take a deep breath—you got this!!!