Pranayama (breathing techniques) for stress relief and regulation


Breathing techniques are highly beneficial to the body and mind.

Dr Sat Bir Singh Khalsa

Director of Yoga Research for Yoga Alliance and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School

has conducted scientific yoga research on yoga for stress, anxiety disorders and insomnia. As you can see from his diagram the breathing aspect of yoga practice is central to stress regulation and resilience.

These are 3 stress releasing and calming breathing techniques.

Humming Bee (Brahmari) breath


It has a soothing effect on the brain and calms the mind.

Sit down with your spine straight.  Close your ears with your thumbs, place your index fingers above your eyebrows, and lightly rest your middle and ring fingers upon your closed eyes. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose, as you exhale make a gentle humming noise and elongate the exhalation.  The longer you sustain the humming noise, the greater the relaxation.

Repeat 5-10 times.

Woodchopper breath


Releases anxiety and frustration.

Stand with feet apart and raise arms overhead with hands clasped. Inhale deeply.

On the exhalation, forcefully breathe out whilst shouting/chanting/screaming “Ha!” flinging your hands down towards the floor (as if chopping wood).

More than 3 repetitions is not recommended, as you may feel light-headed!

Alternate nostril (Nadi Shodana) breathing


Reduces stress and anxiety, calms the mind and body, and improves concentration.

Make sure that you are comfortable but you should be sitting tall with a straight spine. Place your left hand in your lap. Hold your right hand in front of your face with the middle and ring fingers either folded down to the palm or extended so they can rest on the spot between the eyebrows. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Take a slow and steady breath in through your left nostril. Now close your left nostril with your right ring finger while simultaneously releasing your thumb the right nostril. Keeping the left nostril closed, exhale through the right nostril. Slowly inhale through your right nostril (still keeping the left nostril closed). Now close your right nostril again, while simultaneously releasing the left nostril and exhale slowly through the left nostril.

This is one cycle.

(Close right, inhale left, close left, exhale right, inhale right, close right, and exhale left)

For breath is life, so if you breathe well you will live long on earth.
Sanskrit Proverb

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