The truth is the majority of people breathe backwards. They breathe into their chest while contracting their belly.
Irregular, upper-chest breathing is the norm, but this restricts our ability to take in a full breath.
Let's change that!
- Lie down on the floor and place your right hand on your belly.
- Breathe deeply into your belly, filling your chest only when your belly is fully inflated.
- Exhale in reverse: empty the chest and then your belly.
Breathe like that for 3 minutes; long, slow, and deep.
Try it every day. Build up to 7 minutes, 11 minutes, 31 minutes.
Breathe for disaster control
In the midst of a shit storm it’s easy to react — to do or say something completely irrational before considering the best response. Learn to step back and enlist the help of your left nostril.
Associated with cleansing, coolness and receptivity, you’ll be able to act decisively with calm, empathy and sensitivity after breathing consciously through your left nostril.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb, shooting the other fingers straight up to the sky like antennae.
- Breathe long, slow and deep through your left nostril for 3 mins or 26 inhale:exhale cycles.
- This is simply called ‘left nostril breathing’.
Breathe for clarity, positivity, and inspiration
Alternate nostril breathing is great pre-work ritual because it’s a leveller. It balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, helping you feel both calm and energised.
It neutralises nervous energy so you can focus and your ideas can come through clean and methodical (rather than erratic and scattered).
Engage the thumb and index finger of your right hand, then:
- Close your eyes.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb; inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- Close your left nostril with the right index finger; release your right nostril; exhale completely through your right nostril.
- Inhale deeply through your right nostril; close your right nostril with your right thumb; release your left nostril; exhale through your left nostril.
- Inhale deeply through your left nostril; close your left nostril with your right index finger; release your right nostril; exhale completely through your right nostril.
- Inhale deeply through your right nostril and continue through steps 1 to 4.
Repeat for 3 minutes, building up to 7, 11 or 31 minutes over time.
This is simply called ‘alternate nostril breathing’.
Breathe to clear your mind
There’s nothing more depleting than working your arse off on a project or deadline and not being able to let it go when you leave for the day. This zaps your energy and cuts into your own precious available time.
The following exercise is a great way to clear your mind so you can transition to play or relax without ideas distracting you or, worse, harassing you. This breathe practice is cooling and relaxing but won’t make you sleepy, so you can stay energised and alert for whatever you’re doing next.
Close your eyes, then:
- Curl your tongue into a straw (or ‘U’ shape).
- Inhale deeply through the tongue as though you’re sipping through a straw.
- Exhale completely through your nose.
- Repeat for three minutes, building up to 7 or 11 minutes over time.
This is called sitali pranayam (prana = life force, ayam = expansion).
Breathe for creativity
Our greatest barriers to creativity are over-thinking and self-doubt, which act like speed bumps on our creativity journey.
When practised regularly, this breath technique smoothies the road ahead, so that when we sit down to create we have a strong and consistent connection to the place where ideas come from.
Get ready to use your hands:
- Sitting cross-legged with your spine straight (lean against the wall if this is uncomfortable), relax your arms down by your sides.
- Keeping your elbows by your sides, raise your forearms out in front of you parallel to the floor, palms facing each other.
- Roll your fingers into fists, pointing your thumbs straight up. Bring your hands together so that your fists and thumbs are touching.
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply through your nose.
- Exhale completely through your mouth.
- Inhale deeply through your mouth.
- Exhale deeply through your nose.
Repeat for 3 minutes, increasing to 11 over time.