Good morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night (what are you doing online, blue light is so bad for you, please go to bed) and welcome to this week's edition of the blog! We're trying something a little new, to help you bio-hack your happy this time around; but we're going to be talking one of the most important things you can be doing for your health, so stay with me. Aaand that thing... is breathing. That's right, you heard me.
Breathing is super important to your health. In fact, it's so important, that your body breathes on its own if you're not already doing it manually. If you're looking at me like "Carly, I knew that already?" I get it. I KNOW you know how important breathing is. It's what keeps us alive. We can only survive for 3-5 minutes without it (unless you're a Navy SEAL, in which case I thank you for your service). So if we all know that, why don't we pay more attention to it?
There is a multitude of things we can do to keep our bodies breathing healthy, and your breathing habits actually affect you more than you might think. Below, I've whipped up a little quiz for you to take that's going to ask you about some of your habits, and then tell you which type of breathing exercise is best for you to maintain your health. It sounds a little confusing, but I promise it will be fun. Take the quiz, grab your score, and scroll down to see what you get matched up with!
The Alternate Nostril Breath is for you! You are definitely tired, and it shows. Your brain feels a little on the lag, and your energy levels are probably dipping out on you right when you need them the very most. Not to worry, though. The Alternate Nostril Breath (known formally as Nadi Shodhana in Sanscrit) is meant to unite the left and right sides of the brain, and deliver a boost of energy along with it. Don't try this out before you go to sleep, though. This breath is said by yogis to bring such an influx of energy, it might keep you awake at night.
To try it out, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Pinch your right nostril closed while inhaling slowly and deeply through the left nostril. Just before the exhale, switch and pinch the left nostril closed while exhaling slowly through the right nostril. Repeat 5 times or as needed. And remember, if you begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy, it's time to take a break. Now go get energized, you!
Congratulations, you just won a classic. The Ujjayi Breath (known formally as Ujjayi Pranayama in Sanscrit) is known as a standard to practitioners of yoga everywhere, and it's the go-to for focus, mental clarity, and centering. If you're a scattered mess and you can't focus on, well, anything, you're probably due for a little grounding.
Quiet your overworked brain and gather your focus toward your center by finding a comfortable place to sit and let yourself rest for 10 minutes or so. Close your eyes and pay attention to the sound of your breath. To correctly practice the Ujjayi Breath, you'll want to begin with an inhale through your nose. For the first few exhales, make a whispering "HA" sound as you breathe out through an open mouth, sort of like the sound you make when you sigh. Close your mouth after you get the hang of the sound, and now focus on making that same sound with your inhale, only breathing through your nose. When the Ujjayi Breath is being practiced correctly, you should hear a gentle hissing, sort of like the sound the ocean might make, for both the inhale and the exhale. Now, you are focused.
You're going to be taking some time to do the 4-7-8 Breath. You're overworked, you're fatigued, you feel consistently anxious, and frankly, it's giving you a headache. The 4-7-8 Breath is meant to calm a brain that's in overdrive, and frankly just help you to relax a little bit. It's also used to help treat the symptoms of anxiety, and it's even been known to help curb cravings and stop migraines in their tracks. Ready to learn what this all-purpose breath is all about?
To begin the 4-7-8 Breath, sit somewhere that makes you feel calm. Close your eyes. You're going to be counting for this one, so you need to focus. Inhale gradually and deeply for a count of 4 seconds. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds, and then finally exhale evenly for a count of 8 seconds. You should repeat this breath only about 5 or 6 times, especially if you're a beginner. It's a powerful tool for inducing calm, and there's even some lore floating around out there that the 4-7-8 Breath will help you fall asleep in less than 1 minute.
Belly-up to the bar, to learn the practice of Belly Breathing! This is for you stress nuts out there. It's with you all the time. When you wake up in the morning, it descends on you like a shroud. Your whole body is tense, your muscles are sore, and you are a crabby crab. You might even be experiencing intense physical symptoms like stomach or chest pain as a result of your stress. Belly breathing is meant to reduce physical and mental pain from stress, and get the blood circulating into your body, while stress cycles out.
For this one, you'll want to lie flat on your back. Get in a comfortable position, and have some support available for your head, if necessary. While you inhale, focus on the places that fill up first. You'll feel your breath pass through your esophagus, and then fill up the space beneath your collarbones and your clavicle. Afterward, your breath will fill the chest cavity, causing it to inflate. Don't stop there, however. Continue your inhalation until the breath seems to fill up your belly and it physically pushes your stomach out. Once your stomach has achieved maximum potential, release the breath slowly and evenly. Repeat as necessary while the stress ebbs away.