The hidden benefits of breathing

With holiday to-do lists getting long and stress-levels running high, we have just the remedy to get you through this busy time: breathing. Controlled breathing is proven to have many benefits, including stress reduction, increased alertness, and a boost to your immune system.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point this holiday season, try out these three breathing exercises:

Coherent Breathing:
If you only have time to learn one exercise, make it this one. It’s the simplest and can be done anywhere.

  1. Sit upright or lay down, whichever you prefer
  2. Place your hands on your belly, or lap
  3. Breathe in slowly to the count of six, expanding your belly
  4. Pause
  5. Breathe out slowly to the count of six
  6. Repeat for several minutes, working up to 10-20 minutes per day

If you’re new to breathing exercises, you may have to start by breathing to the count of three, and work your way up to six.

Rock and Roll Breathing:
This exercise has the added benefit of working out your core.

  1. Sit up straight on the floor or the edge of a chair
  2. Place your hands on your belly
  3. As you inhale, lean backward and expand your belly
  4. As you exhale, squeeze the breath out and curl forward. Exhale completely.
  5. Repeat 20 times

HA Breathing:
When you need a boost of energy, these quick breaths will wake up your mind and body.

  1. Stand up tall, elbows bent, palms facing up
  2. As you inhale, draw your elbows back behind you, palms continuing to face up
  3. Then exhale quickly, thrusting your palms forward and turning them downward, while saying “Ha” out loud
  4. Repeat quickly 10 to 15 times

While yoga practitioners have long professed the benefits of controlled breathing, science is just beginning to prove them right. The New York Times recently spoke to psychologists and psychiatrists about the various effects of controlled breathing on the nervous system, stress hormones, and more. Read more about what they had to say here.

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