This breathing exercise will improve physical, mental, and emotional relaxation. It can be performed to recover breath and lower heart rate after physical exercise. It is also very useful to calm down when feeling stressed.
When our body is under physical, mental, or emotional stress, parts of our bodies quickly need extra oxygen. Slowing down our breathing and pausing our exhalations will optimize biochemical processes that will help open the airways, improve blood circulation and allow more oxygen delivery to the cells.
When, how long, and what for?
- Directly after a workout: 2-3 minutes, for better recovery.
- When feeling stressed: 2-5 minutes; to calm down.
You can do this breathing exercise while standing up straight, seated, or laying down. Although not needed, you may close your eyes, and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, to feel the movements of the breathing.
- Exhale with lips pursed
- Gradually extend your exhalations. You will notice that your breathing pattern becomes less frequent.
- As soon as you’re able to, inhale through the nose.
- Exhale with lips still pursed
- Keep your exhalations extended, but not too long, as that would cause deeper inhalations, which would make this exercise counterproductive. It should make you feel relaxed.
- As soon as you’re able to switch to 100% nasal breathing. In- and exhale through your nose. You’ll notice now, that your breathing pattern has become calmer and your heart rate low.
What happens inside the body?
Everyday functions of the body like digesting food, moving your muscles, or even just thinking, need oxygen. Fresh air contains the oxygen that we need to live. That’s why we inhale it. When we exhale carbon dioxide (CO2) will leave the body.
When our body or brain faces higher stress levels, we need more oxygen. We might want to think that during stress, we need to inhale faster and more. But the contrary is true.
Most people think that carbon dioxide is just a waste product from breathing, while in fact, it plays an important role. One of the functions of carbon dioxide is to act as a catalyst for the release of oxygen from the red blood cells to feed our tissues and organs. But that’s not all. It also supports the opening of the airways and the wideness of the blood vessels, which is important for blood circulation.
So, extending the exhalation will keep the carbon dioxide (CO2) longer inside your body, which gives it more time to do its job.