Take a deep breath.
Many of us have experienced feelings of being overwhelmed by our thoughts, emotions, and the sensations around us. That’s where mindfulness comes into play. It’s an exercise of nonjudgemental awareness through accepting our thoughts and feelings as they are. It’s simple but can be effectively used every day.
Introducing a mindfulness practice into our daily lives gives us a moment of intentional pause that can be transformative, especially in times of distress. This can be extended to everyday practices like mindful eating, movement, meditation, and more.
When being mindful, one of the most poignant places to focus your attention on is your breath. By engaging with our breath, we intrinsically engage with our body-mind. We thus have a direct line of communication between the body and brain that allows us to attune and attend to what we need most in that moment.
To begin your practice of mindful breathing, here are three foundational and impactful breathwork practices that you can use anytime, anywhere.
Note: Everyone’s practice is unique. The key is to let go of expectations and judgement. Remember that simply being aware of yourself is perfect mindfulness.
1. Improving Focus And Concentration
Establish the foundation of your breathwork practice with a mindful body scan that is gently guided by your breath. Use this when you want to feel more present and in-the-moment. This is also a powerful tool for soothing nerves and anxiety.
How to do it:
You can do this breathwork sitting, standing, or even laying down on your back. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Simply notice, feel, and become aware of your breath and body. Starting from the bottom of your body, bring your awareness to your toes, and take a breath in and out. Work your way up the body, engaging in a cycle of breath as you mindfully scan each body part from your feet to your head. You can do this for as long as you like, or set a timer for one to five minutes. Do this often to cultivate a deeper connection to your body-mind.
2. Feeling Calm And Balanced
Alternate Nostril Breath brings a sense of equanimity and calm throughout your body-mind. Use this breathwork when you feel anxious or stressed, or need to feel more in-tune with yourself.
How to do it:
Begin by exhaling completely. Close your left nostril with your ring finger and fold down the middle and index fingers, leaving your thumb extended. Inhale through the right nostril for a count of four. Then switch and cover your right nostril with your thumb as you exhale through your left nostril for five counts. Repeat by breathing in through the left for four counts, and exhaling out through the right for five counts. If you are able to hold your breath at the bottom and top of your exhales, you can incorporate that into your practice. You can extend the breath counts up to 10. Go with what feels natural and repeat as many times as you like.
3. Boosting Your Energy
Having an energizing breathwork practice like Kapalabhati Breath in your back pocket is a game changer. This is a potent practice that brings a rejuvenating feeling, which is useful for when you are feeling sluggish or need a mood-booster.
How to do it:
Place two hands on your lower belly and exhale completely, really focusing on your belly. Start with an inhale, then take a powerful and forceful breath out, drawing the navel in towards your spine. Allow the inhale to fill your lungs and belly as a natural response to the exhalation. Start slowly and find a comfortable rhythm; when you’re ready, begin to increase the speed of your breaths for a more clarifying effect. Set a timer for 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat two to three times. When you’re done, allow a cleansing round of breath to wash over you.
Based in the beautiful city of Portland, Maine, Katherine Oakes Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering others to live a more conscious and connected life. She is a contributing writer for The Good Trade, Wayward Collective and pens articles on outdoor travel as the East Coast correspondent at Bearfoot Theory; Katherine is also the former web editor of Pure Green Magazine. Offline, you can find her on a yoga mat or in pursuit of adventure in the wilds of Maine and the neighboring White Mountains.