Of course, breathing is for staying alive and calming down. We can train ourselves to breathe through anything, any physical pain or mental challenge. To be acutely aware of your breathing is to tap into your primal life force and exist in an at once present and timeless moment. Breathing techniques can be utilized for all sorts of benefits when they become routine. I suggest blowing your nose before practicing.
Here are 4 favorites:
1. Infinity Breathing (Figure 8 Breath). You may do this in a supine position. I’ve mentioned in other posts how I like to notice the space between my inhales and exhales. This is a continuous breath that omits the spaces.
How to do it: Breathe in and when you get to the top of your breath it becomes an exhale. At the bottom of your slow exhale begin inhaling. Sometimes it’s easier and more relaxing to gently trace a loopy figure 8 on your hand. That way you can breathe to its motion, inhaling at the top of the 8 until you reach the bottom of it.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing. This technique is both calming and stimulating. By breathing through one nostril at a time you are stimulating one side of the brain at a time.
How to do it: Sitting in a comfortable, upright position place your thumb on one nostril and your ring finger of the same hand on the other nostril. This leaves your pinky free to rest and your peace fingers (pointer and middle) to gently settle on the space between your eye brows (third eye). Take a deep breath normally through both nostrils.
When you’re ready to inhale again, plug your left nostril so you are only inhaling slowly through the right. Switch sides to plug the right nostril and exhale slowly through the left. Inhale through left, exhale through right. Inhale through right, exhale through left. Continue for 2-3 minutes.
3. Breath of Fire. This breathing technique is an immune system booster. It is energizing and can provoke spiritual awakening experiences. The best way to describe the sensation is physically and emotionally up-lifting. It comes from Kundalini Yoga practice which to me is about going beyond your limits. This technique has had me feeling tingly and sometimes as if I was going to pass out, but I’ve surpassed it. While it’s exciting to exceed the limits of my potential, be sure to do what is right for you and your body.
How to do it: In an straight, up-right sitting position (sitting on your knees is best, use a cushion as necessary) take a long inhale and exhale completely. Sniff out a short, powerful exhale through your nose while jolting your belly-button inwards. Start slowly to get the rhythm and eventually it becomes rapid. For the first round, I like to keep one hand resting over my bell-button to feel the pulsating rhythm to my breath.
Once you are confident about the synchronized beat, you can raise your arms overhead hands clasped with the pointer fingers aiming upwards. Focus on only the exaggerated short exhales like you’re blowing your nose; the inhales happen subtly. It’s an audible sound. I like to do this for one minute in the morning. Once finished take a long, slow inhale and pause, then exhale slowly and completely.
4. Breathing to Waves. One of fire, now this one is of water. Up until this point, these breathing techniques aren’t really suitable for relieving anxiety. This one helps me relax and sleep better.
How to do it: Close your eyes and imagine you are on the shoreline of an ocean. As water pulls out to form a wave, inhale deeply. Exhale to the wave crashing in. If it works better for your own rhythm and imagery, inhale to the water thinning and spreading over the shore and exhale to it drifting away. In Mantras, I talked about musicians Deva Primal and Miten. They have a beautiful song “So Much Magnificence” about the ocean that makes a nice soundtrack to this breathing imagery.
Experiment with different ways air can cycle through your body! If you like this page, please share it.