A Breathing Practice for Stress

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It has been quite a stressful week one way and another.

At times we all feel stressed and anxious and need a little help to relax. Yoga is wonderful for helping reduce stress and tension and there are a host of useful techniques to draw on, including simple breathing  practices.

When we are anxious we are likely to adopt rapid, shallow, upper-chest breathing rather than slower breathing which comes from the diaphragm. Lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation to reduce the ‘fight or flight’ response and maintain a healthy level of carbon dioxide in the blood can  really help.

A really effective way of lengthening the exhalation is to make a sound on the out breath.

A useful breathing practice for an anxious mind, which uses sound to lengthen the exhalation without strain, is  brahmari breathing  (the ‘breath of the black bee’ -bhramari being Sanskrit for bee).  Brahmari produces a humming sound which is soothing and nurturing. It can be used as a regular daily practice or at times of stress.

To practice this sit tall in a chair on the floor, roll the shoulders away soften the muscles of the face and jaw and sit comfortably. Take a few natural breaths through your nose, and close your eyes or look down. Then, keeping your mouth closed, inhale through the nostrils and on the exhale hum the out breath away, making the sound of the letter M,  Keep the humming sound going until you need to breathe in. Then repeat 7-10 times or as long as it feels good. You can experiment with different pitches of humming, allowing the sound to be smooth and full.

At the end of the practice sit quietly for a minute or two aware of the silence around you and the aftermath of the humming sound. Notice how you feel at the end of your practice.

 

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