Jobs today are no cake-walk. Long hours with hardly any breaks, stress to achieve targets, a boss watching over your shoulder are just a few among the variety of reasons working professionals today are reporting more and more instances of stress and anxiety. If you have noticed, whenever you getagitated, angry or highly emotional your breathing becomes shallower and your reactions become less measured. Breathing, while an involuntary action, can definitely be controlled and should be if one wants to get through the day with minimal stress.

Deep breathing helps stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS. This system is responsible for all the activities that happen in our body when it is at rest. It functions in a manner opposite to that of our sympathetic nervous system which generally controls our primal instincts of fight-or-flight.

Doctors believe that by voluntarily changing the depth, pattern and rate of breathing you can change what signals are being sent to the brain. The breath, according to the yogis of old, is the vehicle of ‘praan’ or the essential life force, we draw it in with every breath we take. Research even shows that changing your breathing patterns can help you access the autonomic communication network of the body, which can have powerful effects on ones thought, emotions and behavior.

Here are some simple breathing exercises which will barely take up any time but leave you feeling refreshed and de-stressed:

Equal breathing

One of the easiest breathing exercises, sama vritti, or equal breathing is something you can do for a few minutes anywhere, be it at work, at home or even if you are out in the park. To start off, inhale for a count of four and exhale for the same count. Yogis were said to be able to increase this count by many minutes, but you can still aim for six to eight counts per breath. This exercise calms the nervous system,increases focus and reduces stress. If you have difficulty breathing try this exercise before sleeping, it is as simple as counting sheep, except far more beneficial and effective.

Pythagorean pattern

This might sound a little challenging but it is in fact quite simple. Inhale slowly for five seconds, hold the breath in for three seconds and finally exhale slowly for four seconds. You may need a clock beside you to ensure you are doing it for the right span of time, do not try to unnecessarily prolong the duration.

This exercise will help you ground yourself in the present moment and help bring your panicked mind back on track. Try and hum a low sound when you are exhaling.

Alternate nostril breathing

Nadi Shodhanam, or alternate nostril breathing, is considered to be one of the most potent relaxation techniques out there. It infuses a sense of calm and centered awareness on the individual when practiced regularly. To do this exercise first seat yourself comfortably. Hold your right thumb over the right nostril and inhale through your left. At the peak of the inhalation cut off the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale with your right nostril. Continue for a few minutes. People have  reported feeling as if they have just had a coffee after doing this exercise. This is a brilliant means of bringing together your left and right brains and bring a sense of  calm and balance. Do this before a big meeting or a pitch and see the difference in your performance.

Abdominal breathing

One of the easiest breathing exercises that can be performed, abdominal breathing can help you reduce blood pressure and stress. To do this exercise put one hand on your chest and another on your stomach.Take six to ten breaths a minute, long and deep, enough to ensure that your lungs expand and stretches your diaphragm. Do not allow your chest to rise and fall, make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm. Doing this exercise for about ten minutes every day can cause palpable difference in your heart rate as well as blood pressure and leave you feeling calm and relaxed. While it may be difficult to control your breath at first it will get easier with time.

Do not discount breathing as being merely an involuntary activity. As far as your well-being goes how you breathe has a lot to do with it. So make sure you are breathing right every day and making the most of every breath you take.


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