Let’s be real: sometimes life can feel like a never-ending to-do list. Checking off those day-to-day tasks can be stressful! It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of life and let self care fall to the wayside.
During times of stress, often without consciously realizing it, you may start to physically manifest your emotions through postures and symptoms. Think about it: have you ever walked in your door after a non-stop day and suddenly, seemingly uncontrollably, let out a giant sigh? Sat down on the couch and realized you’ve been clenching your jaw or tensing your shoulders all day? Walked into a room and realized you’re holding your breath?
None of the above are great feelings, and they don’t have to be the case. There is a simple solution – taking short, conscious breathwork breaks to reset throughout the day. When done correctly, breathwork can profoundly help to reduce stress, which will only have positive impacts on your daily experiences and long term health.
So, what is breathwork? “Breathwork is the bridge between your mind and body,” describes long-time WFCC personal trainer and wellness expert, Barbie Liss. There are many forms of breathwork (such as classic yogic pranayama and the ever-popular box breathing), but at the heart of all forms is breathing exercises and techniques aimed to better one’s well-being.
How does it work? Breathwork helps your body and mind calm down on a neurological level – it helps your body counter the accumulation of minor physical tension associated with stress. Continues Barbie: “Consciously connecting our minds to our breath is a built-in tool that we can access at any time to return our bodies to a state of calm.” We’re with Barbie – we like to think of breathwork as a quick and easy way to ‘hack’ our bodies into chilling out.
What is the best way to practice breathwork? For optimal results, take “breathwork breaks” throughout the day. Moments of transition are great for this. Checked one item off your to-do list? Take a breathwork break before jumping to the next task.
Another great time to practice breathwork is when you notice your productivity levels dwindling or your mind wandering. Take a breathwork break and complete the below exercise, created and demonstrated by Barbie, to reset and relax.
- Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Most people (incorrectly) intuitively breathe into their chest. When you inhale, you want the hand on your belly to rise before the hand on your chest. Another way to look at it is to picture a balloon – it fills from bottom to top. You’re the balloon. You want to fill your belly upward.
- Take a slow 3 second inhale into your belly, followed by the ribs, and then the chest.
- Next, slowly exhale for 4 seconds out of your mouth like you’re blowing out a candle. Remember: chest, ribs, belly. You want to blow all of the air out so that you feel your belly and core muscles emptying; like you’re ringing out a sponge of air. You should feel your core muscles tighten.
- Repeat this 3 times, keeping your mind focused on the cycle of the inhale, the exhale, on your belly breathing. Doing so is going to slow down your nervous system; it’s going to relax your body and calm your mind. Chest, ribs, belly is key!
Continue your self care practice with one of our yoga classes – they’re the ultimate unwinding experience!