Let’s talk about the power of breath…
If you have ever felt stressed or worried, you may have noticed how your breath becomes very short and strained when you feel that way. The effects of stress on the physical body and breath are numerous and none especially good for well-being, but that effect can go both ways! If you can take back control of your breath you can also use it to relax the body to counter the effects of the stress or anxiety.
I have been teaching yoga and meditation for over a decade, leading classes and retreats with people from all over the globe. For me, breath is the absolute corner stone of well-being. When we learn the power of breath, we can become more present and more accepting of our life situations and we can regain control of mind and emotions.
So today I would like to share a simple breathing exercise with you that I have found really useful for reducing anxiety, stress and I have even seen this help people who are in the process of panic attacks. Please don’t practice this is you are driving or operating machinery, it can make you very relaxed!
You can use a straw for this, I use my metal straw, but you can use bamboo, paper or any other straw you have to hand (preferably not plastic though… thinking of the planet and all!). When using a straw, the idea is to allow the breath to leave the body through the straw as slowly as possible. So you are not blowing out forcefully through the straw as if you wanted to blow bubbles through your drink , more just gently breathing out and using the straw to slow that down as much as possible. If you do not have a straw, not to worry, you can also just purse your lips as you breathe out to create a similar effect.
The basic idea is to slow down the out breath. You breathe in deeply through the nose and then breathe out really slowly through the mouth. You can use a mental count, for example breathing in for a count of 3 and breathing out for a count of 6. Or, you can use a mantra or short affirmation; repeating it mentally once as you breathe in and twice as you breathe out. Whatever works for you.
You should do this in a way that feels calm and relaxed, so don’t breathe in too deeply or breathe out so slowly that you start to feel tense. Find a rhythm that is comfortable and sustainable for you. That might change as you do this practice, for example you may start out with a faster rhythm than you finish with.
Before you begin, just close your eyes and notice how your breath is feeling right now…
- Is it deep, or shallow and tense?
- Do you feel your breath in your chest, ribs or belly?
- How is your body feeling, do you have tension in your shoulders or neck?
- Is there tension in your abdomen or chest?
There is no right or wrong here, no judgement, you are just noticing your experience of breathing right now.
Then do the Straw Breath for 3-5 minutes. Breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing our slowly through your mouth.
Here is a short, guided demo:
Finally, once you have completed the straw breath practice and you let your breathing return to a natural rhythm, check in again with your breath and body sensations. Have they changed? How are you feeling now compared to before?
Try using this breathing practice whenever you feel stressed. Also use it as you go to bed and see if it has any impact on your experience of getting to sleep or staying asleep.
I’d love to know how you get on, so let me know in the comments or on social. And if you find it useful, share it on so your friends can also give it a try! Also please subscribe to my blog and social channels if you would like to get more content like this.
Namaste & kindest wishes.