New Year, New Habits: Breath Work + Yoga
Welcome to my 2022 New Year, New Habits Series!
Next up is Breath Work and Yoga. Feelings of overwhelm and stress can come up in many different situations and be brought on by a variety of things, however, sometimes it comes up at the worst possible time.
How do you combat these? The idea isn't always to fight it but instead to manage it properly and effectively. Some of the best and most effective tools I have are breath work and yoga. Breath work is simple, easy and can be done just about anywhere. This makes it a great go-to tool no matter where you are or the situation. Yoga is a great way to supplement it and really only requires 10-20 minutes per day of practice to make a difference.
Breath work doesn't need to be reserved solely for when you are having an anxiety attack. It's something I use on a regular basis to manage my overall levels of stress and to promote relaxation. Progressive relaxation should be used specifically to help manage stress. There are other breathing techniques I'd recommend for anxiety and/or panic attacks.
This type of breathing is great to do right before bed, I've found that it can even put me to sleep when done correctly. The idea here is to literally let your mind, heart and body relax progressively. You do that by breathing out longer than you breathe in. I recommend finding the right counts for you but start by breathing in for 3 and out for 5. Repeat and let the air flow out of you feeling your body relax with each exhale.
Like a square, square breathing comes in 4's. It's probably the most simple of all of the techniques I use as it follows a very simple pattern, 4-4-4-4. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and repeat.
Opposite Nostril Breathing
Opposite nostril is my favorite type of relaxation breathing to use if I am out in public or traveling as it works very well and it draws my focus wholly to breathing because it requires concentration. I would not recommend using this technique to fall asleep. You are going to plug one nostril with your thumb, breathe in through the other nostril, plug the nostril you just breathed in through with your pointer finger while releasing the other nostril and breathe out. Now, without switching, breathe in, then rotate your hands again.
Stretching is a daily practice for me and I like to add in Yoga flows whenever I can because they can be so beneficial and relaxing. There are a lot of great benefits to yoga. Here are some of the benefits that stick out most to me:
Increased Flexibility Yoga, by nature, is a practice that is focused on stretching and lengthening muscles. In a 30 minute yoga flow, you are usually in some type of stretch for 20-25 minutes of the flow. Most people, if they stretch at all, stretch for about 5-10 minutes before or after their workout. You're nearly tripling your stretching time with yoga and you usually are able to get deeper stretches out of your practice. Decreased Resting Heart Rate Resting heart rate is defined as your baseline heart rate when your body is at rest, most easily characterized as your heart rate as you're waking up. Because yoga places so much focus and attention on breathing, it helps regulate your heart rate and over time can lead to decreases in your resting heart rate. This all depends on where your resting heart rate is currently and the potential for improvement. Improved Digestion Certain yoga poses are known to improve digestion. Yogis believe that some twisting poses help waste move through your body and digestive system. Additionally, simply moving your body will help you process food and waste more efficiently. Better Breathing Yoga works to help train your body to breathe more deeply and correctly. When you follow the breathing intended for the flow it opens up your lungs and allows you to more easily breathe deeply into your belly. Yogis will also teach different breathing techniques in some of their flows. Reduction of Stress Because yoga is a relaxing practice, it in turn helps with the reduction of stress. This is due to a combination of things. It is low impact, it teaches proper and deep breathing, it helps to lengthen and strengthen your muscles and it works to burn through excess adrenaline that may be causing stress in your body.