Breathing exercises for a changing world

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I’ve always had self-imposed limitations and an internal narrative regarding my breathing. It’s the basis of my fears related to water and enclosed spaces. At times I go through phases of trying to master both my asthma and my self-beliefs, and other times I just let it be. Through observation, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and the factors—such as stress—that affect my breathing and therefore my overall health. Over recent years though, I’ve made (slow) progress through practising yoga and breathing exercises.

I’ve been particularly vigilant during the coronavirus pandemic to keep safe in my bubble and avoid the risk of respiratory illness. It’s also got me thinking about the benefits of breathing exercises. Not just for helping to strengthen the respiratory and immune systems, but to also help manage anxiety in challenging times. There are many different breathing techniques out there, so I’d like to share a few that I have tried and liked. However, I recommend that you do your research first before diving straight in.

Wim Hoff Guided Breathing

I’ve been aware of Wim Hof’s cold therapy for a while, and have tried cold showers sporadically, but I hadn’t heard of this breathing exercise until recently. I’ve tried it and liked it a lot. It’s quite intense but I feel great afterwards. I’m making this part of my regular practice and am also reinstating brief cold showers. If you’re interested in trying any of his exercises, please watch his safety video first.

Go straight to the breathing exercise here, or try a slower version for beginners here.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

For a gentler practice, alternate nostril breathing can help you relax and create mental clarity. It has been found to have a positive influence on blood pressure, heart rate, and vital capacity. Find a comfortable seated position and let me talk you through this lovely breathing exercise. This video has been extracted from a longer one for calming the nervous system.

Go straight to the video here.

Ujjayi Pranayama – Yoga with Adriene

Adriene says: “Learn the Victorious Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)! This is the first video in our Pranayama Series that focuses on breathing techniques and inspiration for a yoga practice that is focused and fueled by the breath. Ujjayi is a great tool for Hatha Yoga and is used to focus the mind and assist in the synchronicity of movement and breath. Connect to that ocean sound and practice Ujjayi. Let it grow and always ride the wave of the breath!”

Go straight to the video here.

I would love to hear about your experience with these techniques, or if there are different breathing exercises that you practice. Please share with me below!

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical professional and this is not to be considered as medical advice. Talk to your doctor before starting the practice if you have asthma or any lung/heart condition. I would not recommend practising these breathing exercises if you’re sick or congested. If you feel any adverse effects, such as shortness of breath, while doing the breathing technique, you should stop the practice immediately. If you find that the breathing is bringing up feelings of agitation or that it triggers any mental or physical symptoms, please stop the practice.