When you feel anxious or stressed, your breathing may become shallow and rapid, and your blood pressure may rise. This is your body’s typical stress response, and is designed to put you in a state of heightened alert in order to better confront danger.
However, your health is likely to suffer if you find yourself experiencing this ‘fight-or-flight’ response often, and you may develop chronic problems such as high blood pressure or even anxiety.
Instead of getting agitated during stressful situations, you should remain calm. One way to do this is to practise slow and deep breathing. Experts believe that controlled deep breathing activates your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down your heart rate and promotes feelings of calmness.
The ancient practice of yoga offers several breathing techniques that you can practise anywhere and at any time to relieve stress. It’s best to sit comfortably with your back straight while doing these exercises.
Here are three such breathing techniques:
1. Alternate nostril breathing (anuloma viloma, nadi shodhan)
How to do it: Press your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out gently through the left nostril. Now breathe in from the left nostril. Press your left nostril with your ring and little finger and remove your right thumb from your right nostril. Breathe out from your right nostril and then breathe in. Repeat this cycle nine times.
2. Abdominal breathing
How to do it: Inhale deeply through your nose; feel your abdomen rise. At the peak of the inhalation, pause for a moment, then exhale deeply; contract your abdominal muscles slightly to push any residual air out. Continue this cycle five times.
3. Humming bee breathing (bhramari pranayama)
How to do it: Place your index fingers on your ears, at the cartilage. Take a deep breath in and then exhale with your mouth closed, making a loud humming sound like a bee. Gently press the cartilage while you exhale. Continue this cycle five times.