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3 Breathing Techniques to Relieve Stress & Anxiety

3 Breathing Techniques to Relieve Stress & Anxiety

Breathing in a conscious way is a fundamental element of yoga and it’s one of my favourite wellness tools.
I personally use some simple yet effective breathing exercises in my everyday life and I teach them in my yoga classes and workshops.

Pranayama or breath control is the 4th element (or limb) of yoga according to Pantali’s Yoga Sutras, a classical textbook on yoga that was written about 2000 years ago.
Pranayama is done during yoga postures and in some meditations but it’s also a practice by itself that has wellness and healing benefits.

Here are 3 breathing exercises you can do to manage stress and anxiety. They can be done in only 5 minutes.

#1 Kapalbhati Breathing Technique or “I clear my mind”

Kapalbhati is a “mind detox” breathing technique.
I’m sure you experience these moments when your mind is so busy and full of thoughts pulling you in many directions that you feel exhausted even though you haven’t done anything than just thinking.
Do you know the saying “where the mind goes, the energy flows”? It tells how our energy is dispersed when our mind is all over the place.

Kapalbhati in Sanskrit means “shinning skull”, “clear skull” or “light skull”.
Kapalbhati is a mind cleansing breathwork that clears and refreshes the mind.

How to practice Kapalbathi.

1. Sit in a crossed legged position with your back straight, on a cushion or your yoga mat.
Or sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Rest your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes.

2. Take a few deep breaths through the nose.

3. Then, take a nice inhalation and exhale forcefully but gently through the nose, in quick short bursts, contracting the low belly.

4. On each exhalation, the breath is quickly pushed out of the nose and when the belly relaxes the inhalation happens automatically, in a passive way.

5. Continue to focus on the outbreath as you pull your navel back towards the spine.

6. The active short exhalation through the nose will be followed by a passive short inhalation through the nose, with a relaxed abdomen.

Take 20 breath this way to complete one round of Kapalbathi breathing. Then take a few normal, natural breaths through the nose.

Go at your pace and always stay safe.
Repeat this breathing exercise 2 more times.

Breath work should be practiced on an empty stomach, specially this one with an active exhalation that contracts the abdomen. After a Kapalbhati’s breathing session, you may feel that you’ve done some abs workout😉   

#2 The Straw Breath or “I Let Go” 

I started to practice this breathing technique by myself when I felt overwhelmed by stressful situations. I call it the “Straw Breath” because the exhalation is done through the mouth and an imaginary straw. 

You can do this breathing when:
– you’re stuck in the traffic on your way to a meeting
– you’re running late and starting to feel stress building up
– you’re preoccupied with some recurring negative and toxic thoughts 
– you heard some bad news
– you see an accident on the road and start to panic 
– you have fearful feelings, your heart is beating faster and your mind is troubled …

The Straw Breath is an exercise you can practice when you move and walk or you can do it in a seated pose at your desk.
Personally, I practice this technique when I’m in a hurry or late, walking fast or driving.

Even though we usually close our eyes in most breathing exercises, the eyes are open for this breathwork when practiced while driving or walking. I’m sure you get it! 😉

How to practice the Straw Breath

1. Start by taking a deep inhalation

2. Then make a small O shape with your lips, like you would do to whistle and exhale softly, gently and fully through an imaginary straw.
Slowly push the air out through the imaginary straw tube.

3. During the deep inhalations through the nose, your lungs are filled with oxygen, vitality and life force energy. And as you exhale slowly through your puckered lips, let go of the tensions, frustrations, fear, stress…

4. Exhale until you feel you’ve completely emptied your lungs.
Then, let a deep inhalation through the nose naturally fill your lungs with fresh air. Feel your rib cage expanding.
Again, exhale very slowly though your mouth in the imaginary straw.
Exhale fully until you feel there’s no more air to breathe out.

5. When you feel like you’ve emptied your lungs, your body will take another big inhalation through the nose.
The inhalations through the nose are deep and passive, they start naturally and the exhalations through the mouth are active, long and slow.

Do at least 6 to 10 breaths and more if possible.
Repeat the same process as much as needed.

As usual, go at your pace and stay safe when you practice.
Resume this breathing exercise with a few normal natural breaths through the nose.

#3 The Belly’s Breath or “I release and relax” 

Practice this breathing exercise in bed, before waking or sleeping if you’re feeling worried or overwhelmed.

It’s also helpful when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
Instead of counting sheep practice this breathing and count your inhalations and exhalations.
This breathing creates a feeling of relaxation.
I guide my students to do this relaxing breath during my gentle restorative yoga sessions.

Belly’s breath, also called abdominal breathing or diaphragm breathing, can be practice in seated position or lying down.
You can sit in crossed legs pose (or Sukhasana) on a cushion or your yoga mat, sit on a chair with your feet on the floor or lie down on your yoga mat or your bed (my preferred place for this pranayama), in Shavasana, the final resting yoga pose or relaxation pose.

You can also practice this breathing while waiting for an interview or during an exam (with your eyes open).
As you’re breathing gently and softly through the nose, no one will notice your doing some breathwork and it will help you feel relax, grounded and focused.


How to practice the Belly’s Breath or abdominal breathing

1. Sit or lie down. Place your hands on your lower belly. Close your eyes.

2. Start by taking a few natural breaths.

3. Now, instead of breathing with your chest (what we usually do when we’re awake), breathe with your belly. Your lungs aren’t in your belly but as you inhale, your diaphragm muscle contracts and the belly expand.

4. On your next inhalation, breathe into the low abdomen. 
You should feel your hand moving up gently with the inhalation and moving down gently with the exhalation.

5. Mentally count your inhalation and exhalation and start to match your inhalation with your exhalation. Adjust to whichever is shorter.

6. As you settle in this exercise, breathe as slowly and softly as possible and start to lengthen the breath. Let the air come in and out of your nose as softly and slowly as possible.

7. Breathe evenly. Continue to mentally count your breath, matching your inhalation to your exhalation so that they have the same length.
Then add one more count to each inhale and exhale to extend the breath until you feel you can’t go any further without staying comfortable.

8. Your belly is completely relaxed and your hands are relaxed on your belly. Both inhalation and exhalation are voluntary. You’re consciously inhaling and exhaling in a gentle, soft, slow way and lengthening the breath.
The breath is becoming light, long and subtle as it moves, slowly and gently the nose and it’s nearly imperceptible.

Take 10 to 20 breaths until you feel your body is getting a sense of calmness and peacefulness.

When you feel like completing the exercise, take a few normal natural breaths through the nose and get back to your normal breathing. 😊

Repeat as needed. 

These 3 breathing techniques are simple and effective tools to relieve stress and anxiety. My clients have good results with them. 😉

What’s awesome about conscious or voluntary breathing is that you don’t have to go to the hardware store to buy some equipment. You carry your breath with you all the time. It’s accessible whenever you need it.
The gear you need to practice voluntary breathing is built in your body. It’s your respiratory system and it’s comprise of your lungs, diaphragm muscle, nose and mouth.
So, make the best use of your breath for your health and wellness.

To manage stress and anxiety, start to be aware of your breath when you feel stressed or emotional.
Then gently apply one of the breathing techniques mentioned above.
Do not feel overwhelmed by all the info. Simply pick one breath and give it a try! 😊

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If you wish to relearn to breathe in an optimal way to feel calmer, safer, more relaxed, focused and peaceful you can get in touch with me here.
I can help you create a personalized breathing practice for your needs.
I do one-to-one session and breathing classes online + workshops for companies.

Now, make the most out of your breath!
Tell me which one of these breathing exercises you’d like to try?

Do you already use a breathing exercise to relieve stress and anxiety?
Please share it with me, I’m always willing to add simple and practical tools to my Feel-Good Toolbox. 🙏

How To Greet People During An Epidemic

How To Greet People During An Epidemic

Where I live, we kiss once on each cheek to say hello and goodbye.
I’m from a catholic family living on the island of Mauritius.
Kissing is a form of greeting I use in my personal life and in my professional life, I shake hands when I don’t know the person, plus I hug a lot in my yoga community.
NOTE: I don’t practice a religion, I prefer spirituality.

There are lots of forms of greeting that I’ve seen and heard, from an early age, in my multicultural and multireligious country. And we can salute each other without contact.
With the Corona virus disease or COVID-19, the bad news on the web (I don’t watch TV) and people coughing around, I’m drawn towards news ways of greeting.

On Sunday, while I was dropping my son for the afternoon at his best friends’ house, whose parents are huggers as well, I asked my boy: “Are you gonna hug them as usual? Maybe we should talk with them?”
When we arrived there, we all said “Hi” without the usual kisses and hugs and we dived immediately into the subject.
We had an open conversation and we all agreed to be in “Play safe” mode. So, no more hugs, kisses and high-five for now.
In uncertain times, we need to adapt, find solutions and adopt news behaviours.

So here are 5 non-contact ways of greeting someone when a contagious disease is out there:

# The “Hello/Hi/Good Morning” Salutations

We can simply use the formal ways of greeting by saying “Hello”,  “Good Morning”, “Good afternoon” and “Good evening” without physical contact.
Please say the GOOD in the “Good morning”! When making it sound cooler, shorter and friendlier, the best part is omitted and we hear “Morning “or “Afternoon”.
Frankly, I prefer to be greeted by a “Good” than a “Morning” or an “Afternoon”. Same with the “Goodbye” which feels a bit outdated but has the word “Good” in it. 😉
Do you know words carry energy?
Adding a big smile 😊 to this way of greeting will compensate for the lack of warmth we usually get from physical contact.

#2 Hands in prayer at the chest or “Namaste”

I’ve practiced this gesture when I was praying and I presently do it in my yoga classes.
I’m a yoga and lifestyle coach. At the beginning of my yoga classes we bring our palms together to set an intention for the practice plus at the end of class we salute again doing the “Namaste”.
“Namaste” is a Hindu greeting that’s extensively used in the yoga community. In Sanskrit, it means “I bow to you”.
I’m super relaxed with this way of greeting another person. Plus, I love the beautiful meanings of the word “Namaste” which is translated as:
> The divine in me sees the divine in you.
> The divinity in me greets the divinity in you.
> The light in me recognizes the light in you…
I’ve made up my own definition of “Namaste” and you can use it if you like it:
“The light in me recognizes and celebrates the light in you”.

 

#3 Hand raised towards the person we greet

In the same way we salute from a distance or in a car, we raise our hand with relaxed fingers and we do it when we’re close to each other.
I call this one the “God/Goddess Salute”.
Maybe you’ve noticed the Hindu deities, Lord Shiva, Jesus or Buddha having their right hand (the hand that gives) raised and turned outward, at shoulder level. Fingers can be lightly spread like a sun or together.
In some pictures or sculptures, we see light coming out of the greeting hand. It spreading from the centre of the palm and it feels like it’s bestowing light, love and blessings upon all.
Every time I raise my hand to say “Hi” to a person, I imagine I’m a goddess sending good vibes and wishes. It makes me feel good to intentionally say hello this way.
 

#4 Hand at the heart gesture

Often, we’ll see Jesus with one hand on the heart and the other turned towards us. It seems to say: “I greet you from the loving space of my heart” or “My heart sees and acknowledges you” or “I’m sending you the purest form of unconditional love”.

Doing it like Jesus may be too much 😀 but we can simply place one hand on the chest at the heart level.
Like the “Namaste” there is a lot of humility and compassion in this hand at the heart gesture.

 

#5 Casual hand gestures or mudras

Getting a bit more hippie and relaxed there! 😀
Yes, the “Namaste” is a hand gesture called Anjali mudra. But we also have plenty of other hands signs we can use to greet people (See picture above). Some of them are:
> The Peace & Love Salute
Informal and definitely more appropriate to the people who resonates with a free unconventional lifestyle.
> The Hand Heart Gesture
This one is about forming a heart shape using fingers. The Hand Heart Sign is casual and popular in the young generation.
> The Shaka Sign or surfer’s friendly gesture
Also called “Hang Loose”, it’s associated with the surf culture and Hawaii.
Shaka sign consist of extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled.
In salutation you can present the front or back of the hand. You can also rotate the Shaka hand sign back and forth.
I like the Shaka sign. Even though I don’t know how to surf waves in the ocean, I do surf the waves of life. 😊

 

#6 Spiritual salutations or blessings

You can say a mantra which is a word with positive or spiritual power or send good wishes and blessings.
You can greet people you encounter in your personal life or at work with a positive sentence (universal or religious) like:
> God bless you.
> Love and light.
I remember I met lots of people saying or writing this, years ago. Most of them were coming back from self-development courses & workshops.
> Be blessed. Be safe. Be protected. Bless you…
> Peace to you. Peace upon you. Peace and Love.
> Ubuntu.
I’ve recently discovered this one.
Coming from Africa, it means: “I am because you are. We are connected. We are humanity”.
> Om Shanti
Om shanti means “I am peace” or “I am peaceful”.
At the Brahma Kumari World Spiritual University, where I learned to meditate, they greet people coming to their spirituals centres by saying “Om Shanti”. And when they greet each other, the say & reply “Om Shanti” back. It’s a soul to soul connection and a kind of introduction and remembrance of who we are… Peaceful beings at our core, pure consciousness, spiritual being having an earthly experience…
“Om Shanti” means “I am peace” and “You are peace”.
I am a peaceful soul and I see and greet you as a peaceful soul.
> Salaam
Salaam is an Arabic greeting which means “Peace”.
I remember everyone was saying “Salaam” in place of “Goodbye” in my country when I was a kid. We should bring it back!
> Namaste
As mentioned above, “Namaste”is a hand gesture and a spoken greeting accompanying the gesture.

Now it’s your time to get creative and mix and match your preferred salutations or make up a new form of greeting.

You can choose a unique way to greet your family, your community, your clients…
As a business, you can also decide on a new greeting style that resonates with your company’s values, ethics and brand to salute each other and your customers in a personalized way.

I’m a solopreneur, an artist, a coach and a bit of a hippie who enjoy physical contact and hugs but for now, I’m taming my expansive nature and choosing to say “Hello” with a Peace and Love hand sign plus a smile.
In an office, you may have to behave in a more conventional way but I’m sure you can add your personal touch. 😉

 

So, let’s recap!
We can salute each other from the heart, with good intention and meaning without physical contact.
In challenging times of epidemic or pandemic and virus spreading on our planet Earth, it’s best to be cautious and stay safe.

Hopefully you presently have some inspiration to create new ways of greeting people without touching them. You can choose between inspiring salutations of the past and present coming from different cultures and countries or you can invent a new one! 😉

Maybe after the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, there will be some changes in our way to greet each other.
Tell me what form of salutation you’ll use when meeting someone or do you have another way of greeting to share? 

 

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