There are plenty of ways to regain a sense of calm that don’t require investing a chunk of your paycheck in fancy-schmancy spa treatments. In fact, one the best relaxation methods is entirely free. All you need is a pair of healthy lungs, your breath, and 10 minutes of “me” time. It’s called controlled breathing.
Controlled breathing exercises can help keep your mind and body in shape, by helping to lower blood pressure, promote feelings of calm and relaxation, and relieve stress. Here are six expert-approved ways to relax using controlled breathing exercises borrowed from centuries-old yoga and meditation traditions.
1. Sama Vritti or “equal breathing”
This breathing exercise is especially effective before bed. According to yoga instructor Rebecca Pacheco, it works similarly to counting sheep.
“If you’re having trouble falling asleep, this breath can help take your mind off the racing thoughts or whatever might be distracting you,” she says.
How to do it: Begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. Your eyes can be open or closed. Inhale for 4 counts, and then exhale for 4 counts.
All inhalations and exhalations should be made through your nose, which adds a slight, natural resistance to your breath. Once you get these basics down, try 6–8 counts per breath.
2. Abdominal breathing technique
The abdominal breathing technique can be really helpful before experiencing a particularly stressful event like taking an exam or giving a big presentation. Oy, our hearts are pounding just thinking about it.