High levels of stress can change the way we breathe. It can lead to faster, more shallow breathing and sometimes result in dizziness and even more stress.
Breathing exercises can help you calm down. The more you practise breathing exercises, the easier you’ll find it to use them in your everyday life.
Here are 5 breathing exercises for stress you can try. Before you start, sit in a comfortable position and relax your chest and shoulders.
Abdominal breathing can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. It’s a technique that’s used in many forms of meditation and relaxation. Abdominal breathing encourages you to pay more attention to your breathing. This helps you to recognise when you’re stressed so you can adjust your breathing accordingly.
To do the exercise, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Take note of the pace and depth of your breathing, then:
- place 1 hand on your chest and 1 on your tummy
- breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds and fill your tummy with air (your tummy should expand but your chest shouldn’t really move)
- purse your lips and press your tummy gently as you breathe out
Deep breathing exercises
Try doing deep breathing exercises regularly to reduce stress and get better at controlling your breathing when you’re under pressure.
To practise this exercise:
- take a deep breath in through your nose (use your diaphragm so your tummy expands but your chest and shoulders remain still)
- breathe out slowly through your mouth
- make every outward breath twice as long as your inward breath (count to 2 as you breathe in, and to 4 when you breathe out)
Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing can help you relax and lower your heart rate. Breathe evenly and steadily throughout the exercise.
To complete this exercise:
- sit in a comfortable position
- lift your right hand towards your nose
- breathe out fully and gently press your right nostril closed using your right thumb
- breathe in through your left nostril then close it with your right fingers
- lift your thumb off your right nostril and breathe out
- breathe in through your right nostril then close it again with your thumb
- take your fingers off your left nostril and breathe out through it
Do this for 5 minutes. Breathe the final breath out through your left nostril.
Pick a different exercise if you have a blocked nose.
This is known as lion’s pose in yoga and simhasana in Sanskrit. If stress causes tightness in your chest or face, this exercise may relieve tension in those areas. You may want to practise somewhere private as it’s a noisy exercise.
To do this exercise:
- sit with your legs crossed
- place your hands on your knees with your fingers spread apart
- keep your eyes open as you breathe in deeply through your nose
- open your mouth, stick out your tongue and extend it towards your chin
- breathe out through your mouth with a long ‘ha’ noise
- look up to where the bridge of your nose meets your brow or downwards at the tip of your nose
- repeat these steps 2 or 3 times
There are different positions you can use when doing this exercise, like sitting back on your heels.
Humming bee breath
This breathing technique is also known as bhramari. It can help you calm down quickly, relieve tension in your forehead and ease feelings of frustration, anger and anxiety. To do this:
- let go of any tension in your face and close your eyes
- place a couple of fingers on the small triangular part of your ear attached to your face
- breathe in and then out
- as you breathe out, gently press on this part of your ear with your fingers
- make a humming noise with your mouth closed
Continue this exercise until you feel more relaxed.