Breathwork has been gaining momentum in the workplace, finding its way into wellness programmes, workshops, and corporate retreats. And the buzz around it is not all hot air: breathwork has shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and insomnia, and can even lower your blood pressure. But if bringing in a breathwork practitioner doesn’t work in your budget or planning right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t start to incorporate intentional breathing into your workday. Here are a few ways to start.
Just pay attention
The most basic way to breathe mindfully and bring breathwork into your daily life is to simply pay attention. Are you breathing? Is it slow? Fast? Shallow? Erratic? Observe each inhale and exhale without trying to control or change it. Feel where in your body your breath is moving.
Follow the sensation of the breath from the tip of your nostrils to the depths of your lungs, and then out again. And try to keep all your focus and attention on how you’re breathing. If you notice your mind starting to wander, bring it back with your next inhale, and keep going.
Just the simple act of paying attention to how you’re breathing has been shown to ease emotional distress. And if you’ve been telling yourself you want to get into meditating (or just meditate more) this practice is, at its core, a basic meditation. So, you can feel accomplished for multi-tasking, too.
You can do this anytime you feel a little stressed out. Before a big meeting or presentation. After a challenging phone call or email. At the beginning or end of your day. Try it out a few times a day until it becomes a habit.
You’ve probably been told at some point in your life to just take a deep breath (or two…or more). And for good reason: breathing deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help you feel calmer and more relaxed. The main goal here is to increase the supply of oxygen to your brain, so really focus on taking a long, deep inhale and holding it for a little while, before you release. Then for the exhale, imagine you’re letting go of all your stress and tension. Give a big sigh, or AHHHH, or any other noise that feels appropriate and cathartic. Take a few deep breaths like this and notice how you feel.
A simple technique you can do on your own (or with a group) without much effort is box breathing. It’s a great way to practice visualisation, and it teaches you how to quickly calm your nervous system and quieten the mind. To do this, start by breathing in for four counts. Then hold the breath while counting to four. Then slowly exhale while counting to four. And then hold the breath out while counting to four. And repeat. Once you get the hang of the pattern, you can close your eyes and imagine you’re drawing a box and adding a line with every step. So, as you breathe in you draw a line to the right, then hold while you draw a line down, then exhale as you draw a line across, and hold as you draw a line up. One of the greatest perks of box breathing is that it only takes a few rounds to really reset. But if you can repeat it for a few minutes, the calming effects are amplified.
It’s also a wonderful way to practice visualisation, and is even used by Navy SEALS to help with stress management and overall wellness.
Once you start intentionally incorporating breathwork into your workday, you’ll realise how easy it is, and you may even consider bringing it into other aspects of your life as well. So, whenever you need to chill out, calm down, or reset a bit, give it a try. It’s truly a breath of fresh air.