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The Art of Breath: Unlocking Wellness through Breathing Techniques

The art of breathing

Amid our bustling lives, filled with stress, distractions, and constant demands, finding moments of peace becomes essential for our wellbeing. A powerful, natural, accessible and often overlooked tool is the simple act of breathing. 

Conscious and intentional breathing techniques have been practised for centuries across various cultures, offering plenty of physical and mental health benefits. 

The profound impact of breath on mental wellbeing is undeniable. When emotional turmoils become too intense, and we cannot calm down, talking becomes useless. Instead, intentional breathing techniques allow us to regain a sense of calm and balance. 

The art of breathing is a range of effective breathing techniques that can be easily introduced into our daily routine.

And Breathe

The relationship between the mind and breath has been acknowledged and practised for centuries in various contemplative traditions and healing practices. The breath is the bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind, making it a potent gateway to inner calmness.

Breathing is unique among bodily functions in that it can be both involuntary and under conscious control. We can intentionally influence our mental and emotional states by directing attention to the breath. 

The most significant advantage of utilising breath as a calming technique lies in its simplicity and accessibility. Integrating conscious breathing into your daily routine can be seamlessly introduced into any activity, such as commuting from home to work, working at your desk, or taking a break. Doing so facilitates moments of stillness and calmness amid the chaos, promoting mental resilience and emotional balance.

Mindful breathing

Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Following are five breathing techniques to naturally calm the mind:

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Belly Breathing)

Diaphragmatic breathing is a fundamental technique that involves engaging the diaphragm, sometimes called "deep belly breathing". The diaphragm is the muscle located between the chest and abdomen. To practice this technique:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably.

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

  • Inhale slowly through your nose, filling and expanding your belly.

  • Exhale gently through pursed lips, feeling your belly fall.

Deep belly breathing helps reduce stress, promotes relaxation, and enhances oxygen intake, fostering a sense of calmness and balance.

4-7-8 Breathing

Dr. Andrew Weil developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique as a simple yet effective method for promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. Follow these steps:

  • Inhale softly through your nose, counting to 4.

  • Hold your breath, counting to 7.

  • Slowly exhale through your mouth, counting to 8.

This technique slows the heart rate, induces relaxation, and is particularly useful for managing stress and improving sleep quality.

Intentional breathing

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day

is the rest we take between two deep breaths.

Etty Hillesum

Box Breathing (Square Breathing)

Box breathing is a structured technique that involves equalising the duration of each breath phase, creating a "box" pattern. Here's how to practice it:

  • Inhale, counting to 4.

  • Hold your breath, counting to 4.

  • Exhale, counting to 4.

  • Pause and hold your breath, counting to 4.

Box breathing supports the autonomic nervous system regulation and promotes calmness and mental clarity.

Double inhale

  • Inhale first and then add a second inhale, sneaking in a little more air in your lungs.

  • Hold your breath, counting to 4

  • Strong, exhale, pushing out all your breath. In this case, exhaling can be paired with a strong "ah" sound.

This technique reduces stress, lowering feelings of anger and frustration.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

Derived from yoga, this technique alternates left and right nostril breathing, balancing the body's energy flow. Follow these steps:

  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine.

  • Using your right thumb, close off your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril.

  • Begin by closing your left nostril with the right ring finger, then release your right nostril and exhale.

  • Inhale through your right nostril, then close it and exhale through your left nostril.

This technique improves focus, reduces stress, and harmonises the body's energy channels.

office breathe work

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Incorporating mindful breathing techniques into your routine can be a transformative practice for your overall wellbeing. As you navigate life's challenges, take a moment to connect with your breath, tapping into its power to instil a sense of calmness, focus, and balance. Whatever techniques you choose, the art of breathing is an accessible tool that can positively impact your physical and mental health.

When unpleasant feelings rule your day for too long, it’s time to reach out to someone you trust. You don't have to face everything alone. If you don't have someone to talk to, contact a helpline, a support group, or a professional. Your GP or a counsellor can make a difference in your wellbeing. 

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