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April 25, 2012
Image by Nicola Katie / iStock

Having a stressful day? Here are three great breathing exercises to help uplift your mood and balance your day.

Note: If you have any medical conditions, are pregnant, or otherwise unsure of whether or not you should try these techniques, please consult a doctor before you do them.

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1. Ujayii in Sanskrit means victorious breath. This breathing technique is basic and is both energizing and extremely calming. Breathe in and out of your nose keeping your lips loosely sealed. Watch your breath and notice if your inhales and exhales are different from each other; if they are, try to make them of equal depth and duration. Once your in-breaths and out-breaths are equalized, try to find pauses between them, at the top of each inhale and at the bottom of each exhale. According to the ancient yogis, the pauses between your breaths, become pauses between your thoughts, and the farther apart your thoughts are, the calmer your mind, body, and spirit will be. Taking in vitality and life force (prana) on your in-breath during this breathing technique and expelling toxins on your out-breath, enables the following to happen:

  • Enlivens, focuses, and oxygenates your brain, while pacifying, relaxing, and purifying it as well.
  • Heats your system and cools it down, allowing for a nice sweet balance of Ha, the energy of the sun, and Tha, the energy of the moon.

The result? As in a physical yoga practice, if you master Ujayii breathing, you will move through all aspects of your life with more ease and grace. Your breath, mind and mood will all fall into a stronger state of homeostasis.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit: This technique balances out your left and right brain hemispheres. The right-brain hemisphere governs our female, creative, intuitive, qualitative, and nurturing traits and thinking patterns. The left-brain hemisphere governs our male, intellectual, quantitative, and analytical capabilities and thinking patterns. Normally each nostril dominates our breathing mechanism every eighty-eight minutes. With alternate nostril breathing, we manipulate this time and dominance thereby altering our mode of operation. If you tend to be more left-brain oriented, this yoga breathing technique will allow you to come closer to center by bringing more energy to your right-brain hemisphere and vice versa. You will notice that this technique will enable you to concentrate and become less outwardly focused, reining in whichever side of your brain has gone wild!

Find a comfortable seat. Close your eyes. Take your left hand into Jnana Mudra, thumb and forefinger together, other three fingers extending into space. Place the back of your left wrist holding the mudra on your knee. Bring your right hand into Vishnu Mudra, placing your ring finger to your left nostril and thumb to your right nostril. Gently press up against the base of your nasal bone with both fingers. Then lift your thumb and inhale through your right nostril. Hold and block both nostrils, then exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, hold block both, and exhale through the right. Repeat several times until you become undistracted by your senses and the world around you.

3. Bhastrika: If you are feeling depressed, this technique of yoga breathing which forces inhalations and exhalations very quickly, will immediately begin to elevate your mood. It stokes your internal fires, uplifting your energy, while also enhancing your metabolism, digestion, confidence, and strength.

Find a comfortable seat. Close your eyes. Place both hands facing down on your knees. Inhale pressing your belly out forcefully and exhale drawing it back in with light force. Do this over and over for 27 breaths. Then take a deep inhale, hold your breath until you cannot anymore. As you hold your breath lift up your pelvic floor, draw your navel back towards your spine and pull your chin in towards your chest. When you cannot retain your breath anymore, exhale it all out. Repeat three times.

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