Breathing to Relieve Stress

Working with the breath is a key part of Yoga & Mindfulness.

The breath affects the energy in the body as well as the physical body as a whole. When you breathe well you oxygenate the body and brighten up the mind.

Whether you’re preparing to meditate or getting on with the day’s work, taking a few deep breaths mindfully helps to settle the nervous system and offer you a sense of ease.

Breathing to Focus & Relieve Stress

1. Take a Few Deeper Breaths

Find a relaxed seated position with spine straight, or lie down.

When you’ve been stressed it can help to take a few deeper breaths and count from 1 to 5 as you inhale and again as you exhale.

Now breathe normally again. Close your eyes if you want to, in order to help you focus.

2. Become Aware of the Whole Body

Become aware of your whole body exactly as it is right now. Feel it from the inside. Notice areas of tension or relaxation. As you exhale, allow any areas of tension to release gently. If tension remains, let it be. Release the need to struggle with anything you find.

3. Feel the Belly Move as You Breathe

Feel the body breathing and feel the small movements of the belly. As you inhale notice it moves slightly outward. As you exhale the belly lowers again. Keep your attention on feeling these sensations.

You can either sit in the breath awareness practice for a time that feels right or set a timer for a few minutes, so you can let go into the exercise.

Notice if you start analyzing the breathing or the body, and gently direct your attention again to finding the feelings of breathing. Feel rather than think.

4. Be Kind to Yourself

Work gently with your mind and body.

The mind will wander.

When the mind wanders, with patience and tenderness, bring your attention back to the feelings of the next inhalation.

When your intention is kind, your body will soften and your mental state will be open and positive rather than closed. Remember that this is a self-compassionate practice. Release the need to struggle with the mind and instead, guide it gently, with infinite patience.

5. Feel Into the Body As You Close Your Practice

As you close your practice time, become aware of the whole body again. Feel the weight of the body and how it presses against the surfaces you rest on.

Take a few deeper breaths and as you exhale release any mental or physical tension that can go. No need to struggle.

Notice how you feel now. Remember that you can come back into this kind of a practice anytime, even for short periods of time, and it will reset your body and mind.

Monica MaurinMonica Maurin has studied mindfulness and Yoga internationally with Sarah Powers of the Insight Yoga Institute, Mindful Schools USA, Sananda Yoga Toronto, and at the University of Toronto. Along with teaching both corporately and in the community, she curates articles for slow + sense and is the director of Mindfulness Training Toronto’s online resources. She develops meditation programs, resources, and CDs, including Mindfulness for the Workday.