3 Breathwork Exercises to Reduce Stress and Increase Focus

Everyone manages stress differently. Some get angry, talk it out, eat sweets, run away, or curl up into a ball. Regardless of your default stress style, we all have one goal in mind. Reduce the amount of stress we deal with each day. Cultivating a solid wellness practice gives us the space to manage stress on an ongoing basis. Once of the quickest ways to reduce stress during a hectic day is to use breathwork, or pranayama breathing.

If you want to take your self-care to the next level, think about incorporating breathwork.

What is breathwork and what are the benefits?

Breathwork is a technique for using the breath to calm the nervous system. It's roots are in yoga and Ayurveda. This ancient breathing system is called Pranayama. Today most people refer to pranayama techniques as 'breathwork', but they are the same modality with the same aim.

The benefits of breathwork are overcoming depression, managing addiction, and/or having a more compassionate self-view, and deepening your spiritual connection. Everyone has a different experience, but the goal is to facilitate transformation to improve the quality of your day or life.

One main benefit of breathwork is reducing stress.

Here are three breathwork exercises proven to reduce stress.

You can do these in little as 5-minutes during your busy day.

1. Balanced Breathing, Box Breathing known as or Sama Vritti

Time Commitment: 5 Minutes

Benefits: Brings energy into balance, harmonizing the mind and body, helps to ground thoughts, aids in finding clarity

When to Use: Before a big meeting or presentation. Or, before having to make major decisions.

Steps to Practice:

1 - Find a comfortable seat on a cushion or chair. Close your eyes or soften your gaze onto one location (see page 3 for details).

2 - Find your flow:

Inhale to the count of 4.

Exhale for the count of 4.

Repeat several times (approx. 1 min,) then increase the count.

Inhale to the count of 5.

Exhale for the count of 5.

>> As you become comfortable, you can gradually increase the counts so you are inhaling/exhaling for longer durations.

Note: If you feel uncomfortable at any time, you can stop the practice.

 2.  Belly Breathing for Clarity and Energy

Time Commitment: 10-15 Minutes

Benefits: Creates a connection between the mind and body, helps realize your full potential, and increases energy.

When to Use: When needing to make big business decisions. Or, when looking for clarity in your work or project. When feeling exhausted.

Steps to Practice:

1 - Find a comfortable seat on a cushion or chair. Close your eyes or soften your gaze onto one location.

2- Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.

3 - Inhale slowly through your nose until you feel your stomach rise against your hand.

4 - Exhale slowly and feel your stomach fall away from your hand towards your spine.

5 - Work towards your breathing becoming slow and deep.

Pro Tip: Write down any ideas that have come to you during mediation. Many times we get out best ideas when we are relaxed and open.

Note: If you feel uncomfortable at anytime, you can stop the practice.


3. Ujjai or Ocean Breathing

Time Commitment: 5-10 Minutes

Benefits: Calming, relaxing, reduces anxiety, detoxifies the mind and the body

When to Use: When feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or exhausted

Steps to Practice:

1 - Seal your lips

2 - Inhale deeply down into your belly (more than usual)

3 - Exhale slowly through your nose while opening up the bottom of your throat. This should make an audible sound like the ocean.

>>Try several times until you hear an audible sound in your exhalation. Some say this sounds like Darth Vader (or the ocean).