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Breathing exercises instill relaxation and help reduce stress.
If you've frequented many yoga classes, you may have heard your teacher mention centering and grounding. These two words are often used interchangeably as a way to describe a calm, balanced state of mind. Breathing is an essential part of life as it helps to bring life to your muscles, internal organs and your brain. Through breathing exercises, you can experience the senses of centering and grounding.
Breathe with your Belly
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, helps to correct the shallow breathing that takes place mostly in the upper quadrant of your lungs. Belly breathing can teach you to utilize your diaphragm, and your entire lung capacity. This practice also helps to center you as you focus on your breath. To start, lie down or sit in a comfortable, upright position. Close your eyes and breathe in and out of your nose. Place one hand on your lower abdomen and one on your chest. Practice inhaling into your hand on your belly first. As your belly expands, your ribs and chest will follow. On your exhale, draw out all of the air from your belly and repeat. Continue for up to 15 minutes.
Breathe With a Pause
Once you've become practiced in belly breathing, you can begin to explore other breathing exercises. Breathing with a pause is an exercise that can help you calm your busy mind. For this exercise, lie or sit in a comfortable, upright position. Close your eyes and begin breathing, using the belly technique. Notice the natural pause that happens as your breath makes the change between inhaling and exhaling. After you inhale, your breath makes the brief switch to an exhale. After you exhale, your breath pauses and switches back to an inhale. As you bring awareness to this pause, your mind will begin to feel more grounded and relaxed.
Breath with a Hum
So Ham -- pronounced hum -- is a Sanskirt phrase or mantra that means "I am that." The So Ham exercise is a combination of breathing and meditation. To yogis, the sound of the inhale is So and the sound of the exhale is Ham. This exercise promotes a sense of grounding and helps the practitioner focus on their personal connection with their breath. To try So Ham, lie or sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and begin your belly breathing. After a few moments, begin to think "So" on your inhale and "ham" on your exhale. Continue for up to 15 minutes.
Breath with Both Nostrils
Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a yogic breathing exercise that helps you breathe through both nostrils evenly. This practice is said to bring balance to your body and mind. Breathing through your right nostril activates the left side of your brain and visa versa. To try Nadi Shodhana, sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your right nostril with your right thumb, then inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your right ring finger, then exhale through your right nostril. then Inhale through your right nostril, close your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. This completes one cycle. Repeat this cycle five to 10 more times.