Breathing is possibly the most fundamental thing we do. It’s the first thing we ever did when we were born. Breathing is our bodies’ way of providing fresh oxygen to every cell and removing the carbon dioxide we produce during respiration. Like most living things, we need oxygen to survive, it helps us grow and repair, and turn food into energy. Breathing is absolutely vital for keeping us alive, so vital in fact, that we don’t even have to think about it.
If we take a moment to think about breathing, it can actually have a tremendous calming effect on us mentally. There are a variety of breathing techniques that are employed through various teachings such as meditation, or simply as a stress release. It is also used in mindfulness to help us remember the day-to-day things that we normally take for granted, or look over, but rather it provides us with an opportunity to get back in touch with these elements that are quite literally keeping us alive.
The first technique simply involves counting. Start off by inhaling for two counts, holding your breath for two counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding for one or two counts. Keep going with this motion, and when you’re ready to extend your breaths, go for it, just keep the proportions the same. You can also try alternate nostril breathing. With the aid of your hand, block your right nostril, breathe out and in through the left nostril, switch nostrils, and exhale and inhale through the right. Keep this up for a few minutes. Some people also find it helpful to focus the location of the breath either in the chest or belly. By keeping one hand on each, and imagining each one in turn as a balloon inflating and deflating.
Take some time to try these out and get a feel for which one suits you best. Try and spend a few minutes every day just focussing on your breathing. Once your mind and body get used to this practice, you should be able to draw upon this skill when you’re feeling anxious or in a tense or stressful situation. Just close your eyes, bring your mind to your comfortable spot, and repeat what you’ve been practicing already. Not only will it give you something to focus on, but it should also help calm you down too.