Feeling stressed or anxious? Try taking a few deep breaths.
A simple routine of breathing exercises can help you relax and feel calm. The controlled in and out of your breath helps quiet your mind and let go of worries or uncomfortable thoughts.
Breathing techniques called pranayama harness the power of breath to improve your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Pranayama means to control life force and is often practiced during yoga.
Pranayama can have a profound impact on your health, according to scientific studies. It naturally lowers the release of stress hormones, which helps you feel less tense and anxious. It also can help you sleep better.
Deep breathing exercises naturally improve lung function and boost the flow of blood and oxygen circulating through your body. Not only do you feel better, you think more clearly and focus better on tasks or moments in life.
When you control the rhythm of your breath, you charge up your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the part of your body that helps you rest and conserve energy. It also controls how your body digests foods.
Here are two breathing exercises to help you cool down physically and mentally. If you have a history of breathing issues, such as asthma or COPD, check with your doctor or respiratory therapist before trying these techniques.
Cooling Breath (Sheetali)
- Stick out your tongue and roll the sides upward so your tongue forms a tube (called a taco tongue). If you’re unable to curl your tongue, inhale through your teeth with lips slightly parted and tongue gently placed behind the front teeth.
- Inhale slowly through your curled tongue.
- Exhale slowly through your nose.
This completes one cycle. Repeat three to 10 cycles.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)
- Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine.
- Rest your left hand on your left knee, and bring your right hand to your face.
- Use your right thumb to close your right nostril, and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, and release your thumb to exhale through your right nostril.
- Inhale through your right nostril, then close it with your thumb again.
- Release your ring finger to exhale through your left nostril.
This completes one round. Repeat for five to 10 rounds, gradually increasing the duration.
Dr. Leah Sherman is a naturopathic doctor with Goshen Center for Cancer Care. She specializes in integrative oncology to support patients in all stages of conventional cancer treatment and beyond. Her evidence-based, natural therapies help patients manage cancer-related side effects, improve quality of life and support wellness.