Breathing techniques

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How to breathe properly
Try these techniques a few times and see how they feel. If at any time you feel faint or light-headed, stop and return to normal steady breathing.

Abdominal breathing
Abdominal breathing is the type of breathing you use in yoga. Babies breathe this way, as do you when you're asleep. It involves letting the air you breathe in push out your abdomen.
  • close your eyes and make yourself comfortable
  • place both hands gently on your tummy so you can feel the rise and fall of your breath and make sure you're doing it correctly
  • if possible, breathe in and out through your nose, or, if you prefer, in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • if you have a cold, you may need to breathe in and out through your mouth
  • imagine you have a round balloon in your stomach you want to inflate – as you breathe in, imagine the air going down through your lungs and continuing into the stomach, fully inflating the balloon, as you exhale, the balloon deflates
Rib cage breathing
This breathing technique is use in pilates and by ballet dancers.
  • close your eyes and make yourself comfortable
  • place your hands on the lower side of your rib cage (both sides) so the fingers of each hand gently touch
  • breathe in through your nose
  • this time, imagine you're filling a long narrow balloon which inflates out to both sides, gently pushing your rib cage out with it – feel the air filling your lungs and your rib cage expanding outwards to the side
You probably preferred one of the styles of breathing, so choose which suits you best and use it for the rest of these breathing techniques. You don't need to keep your hands in position unless it helps you to remember the technique.
Breathing exercises 
These exercises aim to switch off the adrenalin response, relax your body and calm your mind. A count is around a second.

Exercise: Energy breathing
This exercise brings more oxygen into your body and energises. If you do this and also have a big glass of water, you'll be able to avoid the afternoon energy slump and not need that cup of coffee. 

Do this exercise standing rather than sitting.
  • breathe in for five counts
  • hold for 20
  • breathe out for 10
  • repeat three times
Good for creating energy – best done outside or by a window to get some cool fresh air. It is also good first thing in the morning or before an exercise workout.

Do the rest of these exercises sitting down.

Exercise: Square breathing
  • breathe in for four counts
  • hold for four counts
  • breathe out for four counts
  • hold for four counts
This is a yoga-style breathing technique. It focuses your mind on the breathing (and not the issue or problem), calms your body and reduces your heart rate. This is an excellent technique to do anywhere.

Exercise: Alternate nostrils
  • lightly hold your thumb to the side of one nostril and your index finger to the side of the other nostril
  • breathe in and out three times normally
  • on the fourth inhalation, close the nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the open nostril
  • inhale through the open nostril
  • release your thumb and use your index finger to close the open nostril, releasing the other nostril
  • now breathe out through the open nostril
  • breathe in through the open nostril
  • then swap to the thumb to cover the open nostril and continue.
  • swap nostrils for rounds of inhalations and exhalations around eight times
This is also a yoga breathing technique and has the same affects as the previous exercise. One to be done in private and not when you have a cold.

Exercise: Rapid exhalations
  • take a large breath in
  • breathe out in quick, short outbursts (about six to 10 small quick bursts of air) from your nostrils so you can hear the exhalation
  • you'll also feel this in your stomach as it contracts backwards and forwards
  • you'll find you're breathing in as well as out, so you should be able to keep it going for at least six short bursts before you feel the need to breathe normally again
  • repeat three times
Another yoga breathing technique, used to focus your mind, and good when used alongside other breathing techniques to prepare for meditation.
Exercise: Calming breath
  • breathe in for seven counts
  • don't hold
  • breathe out for nine counts
Commonly used for inducing calm during panic attacks. Can be used anywhere anytime and is especially good to use during arguments before you react or speak.
Exercise: Heartbeat breathing
  • as you inhale and exhale you're going to count the number of heartbeats you feel between each breath – your aim is to increase your breathing cycle to take in more beats
  • use your index finger and the next finger to find your pulse in either your wrist or your neck – when you can feel the pulse, start the exercise
  • count the number of heartbeats as you inhale and exhale normally 
  • when you've completed one breathing cycle and have a figure, complete a second cycle and try to increase the figure by one or two counts – you'll need to breathe in for longer, hold for longer or breathe out for longer to achieve this
  • repeat for a third cycle and try to increase the figure by one
A great exercise for creating calm and not being able to worry or be anxious about a problem – all your concentration is taken up with counting the beats. As you continue with the exercise, it will become harder because your heart rate will begin to slow down.

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