An Easy Exercise To Release Stress In Under 5 Minutes, From A Yoga Instructor

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
A 5-Minute, Stress-Relieving Exercise This Yoga Instructor Swears By

Stress can creep in unexpectedly or strike exactly when you'd expect (say, Election Day, for example). Regardless of how, when, or why stress hits, it's helpful to lean on worry-reducing techniques like exercise. However, if finding time for an hourlong workout causes you to feel even more overwhelmed, consider this single stress-releasing movement called "Breath of Joy."

Registered yoga instructor, meditation teacher, and wellness leader Pilin Anice shared a simple breathwork exercise that not only gets your body moving but is also meant to stimulate the nervous system and help ease anxious thoughts. Here, Anice shares more about the Breath of Joy exercise and its benefits, which comes from the Kripalu tradition.

How to do the Breath of Joy. 

With just five to eight repetitions, this move is short and effective enough to practice morning, midday, evening, or even when you wake up in the middle of the night. However, Anice recommends starting the day with it. 

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Keep a soft bend in your knees. 
  2. Inhale one-third of your lung capacity through your nose. Swing your arms up in front of your body, keeping them parallel in line with your shoulders.
  3. Continue inhaling until you reach two-thirds capacity. Stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level.
  4. Inhale to full capacity. Swing your arms parallel and over your head with the palms facing each other.
  5. Open your mouth and exhale completely (make a "HA" sound), bend your knees deeply as you fold forward, and swing your arms back behind you.

"Find a peaceful rhythmic pace that feels good," she adds. "Never force or strain." People with high blood pressure or eye or head injuries should avoid this move and focus on less-physical breathwork. Anyone who becomes dizzy during the process should stop and return to normal breathing.

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Benefits of the movement. 

"When we are anxious and stressed, breathing typically becomes shallow in the chest," Anice tells mbg. "Shifting to three-part breath (which is a full complete breath done by inhaling deep into the low belly, into the rib cage, then the chest), is an excellent way to calm the mind, reconnect to the body, and cultivate presence," she says.  

Along with three-part breath, this exercise adds arm movements, which help temporarily stimulate the sympathetic nervous system by increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream, she explains. Deep exhalations follow strong inhalations, which helps to release tension and stress from the body.  

"After several rounds followed by stillness and witnessing the aliveness in the body, the parasympathetic system activates, bringing in a serene state of calm and ease," she says. "The mind becomes quiet, and the body becomes energized." 

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