Breathing Exercises: How Often Should I Practice?

Just. Breathe. 

 

Breathing exercises are some of my favorite strategies for managing stress. When you’re stressed, you can use your breath to not only stay level-headed but actually change your mood or emotional state

 

People often ask how long a breathing exercise or breathing practice should last. 

 

My answer? There’s no magic number! 

 

It isn’t about how many minutes you commit to your practice, it’s about how consistent you can be. So don’t put a time constraint on your practice, instead, set the goal to take deep, mindful breaths every day and make this practice a HABIT.

 

Here are some tips for helping your practice become a habit: 

  • Put a reminder on your phone. 
  • Put a post-it note reminder on the mirror. 
  • Make your breathing practice part of your morning or evening routine. 
  • Establish a cue. (i.e. Every time I hear the neighbor’s dog bark, I take some deep, mindful breaths.)  

 

The more you work to make mindful breathing part of your routine, the better equipped your brain is to access this strategy during stressful situations, and the more you can feel in charge of your stress and emotions. 

 

Watch this video for more strategies and download your DEEP BREATH DECK today!

Breathing Exercises: How Should I Sit?

Okay, so you know breathing exercises can help you calm down and get to a place where you can think critically and clearly about how to best respond to the stressful situations around you.

But do you ever wonder if you’re doing it right?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the “right” way to breathe and I want to share some of my answers, but I also want to emphasize a successful breathing practice isn’t really about doing it “right”; it’s about finding what works best for you!

That being said, here’s one of the tips I have for maximizing the benefits of your breathing exercises.

Start with your posture and position.

To fully access your deepest breath, sit up nice and straight:

  • Are your ears above your shoulders?
  • Are your shoulders above hips?
  • Have you uncrossed your legs?
  • Are your feet firmly on the floor?

And my final recommendation: Do you have one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest? As you breathe in, push your belly out into your hand, and as you breathe out, allow the belly to fall back towards the spine. The hand on your chest should have as minimal movement as possible, so you are using the belly to breathe deeply and access your sense of calm.

From there, you’re ready to begin your breathing exercise!

A beneficial breathing practice doesn’t demand perfect posture, but strategic posture will let you access the sense of relaxation and calm you’re seeking. Adjust your positioning as needed to feel confident and comfortable as you breathe.

Interested in more guidance on how to develop a regular breathing practice and how breath and movement can help you relax and focus throughout your day?

Watch this video for more strategies and download your DEEP BREATH DECK today!

Breathing Exercises: What if Sitting Makes Me Anxious?

You know I love my breathing exercises! But is there anyone out there who struggles with sitting completely still and focusing on nothing but your breath? 

 

I’ve found that during static breathing exercises some people may experience fear or feel anxious, awkward, or uncomfortable. 

 

And I am NOT about making people feel uncomfortable! But I also do not want anyone to miss out on all the benefits breathing exercises have on stress management.  

 

One suggestion you’ll often hear for people who experience some discomfort with stillness during their breathing practice is to “sit with it”. This means inviting those feelings of discomfort in and working through them as a means of practicing acceptance

 

If that “sit with it” approach works for you, GREAT!  

 

But what I’ve found, especially for those getting started, is just “sitting with” those uncomfortable feelings haven’t been the best option.  

 

So what has worked? 

 

Inviting in movement. 

 

If you’ve followed me for long, you probably heard me say, our “issues are in our tissues”. This means that stressful experiences get stored in our body, either as excess energy or tension. Movement can help us dissolve that stress and tension in the body, while also limiting distractions during our mindfulness practice. 

 

Try adding movement to your breathing practice by: 

 

  • Incorporating shoulder movements: When you breathe in, your shoulders come up; when you breath out, your shoulders come down and relax. Repeat as you continue to breathe. 
  • Incorporating hand movements: When you breathe in, ball up your hands into tight fists; when you breath out you, release and stretch out your fingers. Repeat as you continue to breathe. 

Hopefully, this tip can help you have a better experience with your mindfulness practice.

 

Watch this video for more strategies and download your DEEP BREATH DECK today!

 

Breathing Exercises: Should I breathe through my nose or mouth?

Nose vs. Mouth? 

 

When it comes to my breathing practice, should I be breathing through my nose or through my mouth?

 

This is one of those questions I get a lot when facilitating training with breathing exercises, so I wanted to share my thoughts about this. 

 

When you’re exercising or running, you’ll notice you often breathe out of your mouth. And this is great; it releases tension and exerts force. 

 

But then when you go to a yoga class, you’ll find they tell you to breathe in and out through the nose. 

 

Here’s why breathing through the nose is the common recommendation for mindfulness practices: 

 

  • Your nose has these mucus membranes with cilia. This cilia can filter out dust particles while retaining moisture and maintaining warth. 
  • The nasal cavity is smaller so it takes longer for your breath to escape. This slows down your breath and leads to deeper breathing which can help you activate your sense of calm. 

 

So for me? Yes, I typically breathe through my nose during my breathing exercises. 

 

But here’s the real advice: Do what works best for you! 

 

For some people, due to blockages or other issues, breathing through the nose just isn’t comfortable. That’s okay! That does NOT mean breathing exercises aren’t for you. 

 

The nose vs. mouth debate is actually a question of individual choice. Practice both and find which you prefer. Do what works best, take your time, and make sure you are breathing in a relaxed way. 

 

Watch this video for more tips about maximizing your breathing practice and download your DEEP BREATH DECK now!

Breathing Exercises: Should I Open or Close My Eyes

Should you keep your eyes opened or closed during breathing exercises? 

 

My answer: It depends. 

 

There’s some pros and cons to both, so you have to decide for yourself which approach you prefer.  

 

👍🏽  When you close your eyes, you can shut out distractions, better hear your breath, and be more present with sensations in your body.

(But you might feel uncomfortable or exposed when you can’t see your surroundings, or you might be unable to focus your mind.) 

 

👍🏽  When you keep your eyes open, you may feel more present with your surroundings, and you might be more comfortable and secure when you can see what’s going on around you. 

(But you may be easily distracted by your surroundings.)  

 

The key is finding what’s most comfortable for you! Alternate back a forth a few times to find if you feel more relaxed and focused with your eyes opened or your eyes closed. 

 

And here’s a tip for those who decide to keep their eyes open: 

  • Try bringing your eyes to a low gaze. Look at your belly, towards your feet, or a low spot in front of you. This can allow you to maintain an awareness of your surroundings while still keeping most of your attention on yourself. 

 

Eyes opened or eyes closed, the important thing is that you Just. Keep. Breathing.

 

Watch this video for more strategies and download your DEEP BREATH DECK today!