One of the breathing techniques I’ve been using lately is straightforward as can be: take five breaths. I like inhales and exhales both through the nose. Feel your lungs expand bottom to top on the inhale, and focus on making the exhale last smoothly and continuously. Eyes can be open or closed, but if they are open make sure you fix your gaze on one point.
I use five breaths all the time (and you can too!):
1. When I wake up in the morning. After I turn my alarm off, and hopefully before I start checking email or anything else. If I’m feeling very sleepy, eyes stay open. It helps start my day with the sense that I am in charge of it, rather than racing to catch up on what I’ve “missed” during the night.
2. Before I go to bed. I find this especially helpful if I am trying to go to bed by a certain time but am not necessarily very tired. Eyes closed for this one, and let yourself drift.
3. To calm my nerves and help relieve anxiety. Before an audition, I am able to get centered and really take in my surroundings. Five breaths help me stay inside the audition room instead of getting trapped inside the no-man’s land of my mind. If I am feeling out of control anxious, I try to stop and take five breaths as well. It may not totally quell that gnawing feeling inside, but it usually helps bring me down enough so that I can function.
4. If I was almost late (or actually late). I am generally considered a “prompt” person. This means I am for the most part on time, but without tons of time to spare. If the gods of the subway are not smiling upon me, I can end up as a big ball of stress. This is not the time to chastise myself for my lack of wiggle room (although that can definitely come later), it’s the time to calm down and focus on the next thing I have to do. Five breaths helps get my mind to wherever my body has just shown up.
5. If I plowed through half my carton of Pad Thai without really tasting it. This is different from the “wait 15 minutes to see if you’re still hungry” break. More of a pause to make sure that if I’m going for the second half (which is often the case), I savor each and every delicious peanut-sauce flavored noodle.
6. Before I get bored. Stuck in traffic? Long train ride home? Standing in line for tickets, appointments, or a sample sale? Waiting is a big part of life, especially here at home in NYC. Your breath is interesting. Clearing your mind helps the time to pass. If it’s a long line, take 10 breaths- or 20. It might be a better use of your time than checking your email every 3 minutes (which is SO hard not to do!).
Simple but effective, you don’t have to carry your breath around in your pocket or make hook into wifi to access it. It’s with you whenever, wherever.
Where and when do you find conscious breathing to be most helpful?
*photo courtesy of pinterest