With all the articles during the pandemic on ways to deal with anxiety and stress—and the cousin of those two often debilitating emotions—fear, breathwork, and meditation have become bigger buzz words than ever before in the wellness and self-care space as people everywhere strive to recenter and recalibrate their daily life.
As a passionate breathwork teacher and mental, physical, and spiritual wellness warrior, I’ve been working in this field for 26 years and have tried all the modalities out there.
After sifting through all of them, here are my top seven tips for using breathwork and mindfulness techniques to rise to a more calibrated and joyful state when these emotions try to bring you down.
1. The easiest and most accessible of all is to simply take a big deep breath. My version of a big deep breath has a twist to it though. I like to add a deep guttural sigh of release (and relief) at the end of the breath.
How to do it:
Start with a slow steady inhale into the nose for a count of three to four seconds, filling the belly and the chest with oxygen. Then open the mouth and let out a big guttural sigh for a count of four to six seconds. Make the sound of one long ha or a series of ha ha ha or any other sound that feels cathartic. Relax everything as you repeat this two to three more times or until relief is felt.
2. Create a daily mindful breathing practice that consists of breath awareness exercises. The goal of this type of breathwork is to get present with the inflow and outflow of the breath by noticing the length of each breath, the sensations of the breath, and all the nuances that take place with each wave of the breath cycle.
3. Practice moving meditations. This is a different style than traditional seated meditation and is done by simply becoming aware of your breath, your surroundings, your senses, and each movement as you engage in any regular activity throughout the day.
4. Adopt a five-minute Trail of Gratitude practice. This is one of my favorites and is part of my daily wellness routine. You can do this seated or lying down. It is how I end each breathwork class I teach, and it’s a beautiful way to combine gratitude and visualization (another powerful mindfulness technique).
How to do it:
Picture yourself in your favorite place in nature, and see yourself standing there—your bare feet firmly rooted on the ground beneath you. In front of you is a trail, and it’s clear you are meant to walk down it. As you stand there, begin to see all the people in your life who have touched you, changed your life for the better, and deeply impacted you—all the people you are grateful for. See them one by one appearing on this trail of gratitude.
Walk up to them, look deep into their eyes, and say, “Thank you, I’m grateful for you.” Then visualize giving them a big hug for touching your life. Continue doing this for five minutes or more, and see how many people you can call onto this trail of gratitude. This practice brings me to tears every time.
5. Finally, another one of my favorite wellness and mindfulness practices involves combining some of the above (breathwork and visualizations) in the shower with the addition of self-massage for relaxation and stress relief.
How to do it:
Start with some deep mindful breathing. Take a breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, making an audible sigh on the exhale. Do several cycles of these deep sigh breaths, letting the sighs be freeing, relaxing, and soothing.
Then do a body scan, starting at your feet and working your way to the top of your head by checking in with each area of your body for any discomfort, stress, tightness, or stuck energy along the way.
As you move up the body, breathe into each new area and see where you might need to add some self-massage along with the warm water from the shower targeting that area. Take a few minutes to massage that area until relief is found, and the body scan is complete.
6. A great way to start any day is with what I call RAPfirmations (my version of affirmations) If you don’t have one, start creating one by writing out what you would like to create for yourself in the future in every realm of your life; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, and in your relationships.
Examples are phrases like:
I am abundant and healthy in all my relationships.
I am creating magical masterpieces with my passions and in my work.
I am in charge of the way I feel and the energy I create all day, every day.
I am dancing into beautiful opportunities always.
Once you have your list, sing or rap each item. I have found that singing or rapping affirmations creates more of a connection. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean.
7. Pay attention to the way you respond or engage with the world around you throughout the day. Rather than instantly reacting to a situation, someone else’s energy, or the content you consume from a place of emotion, remember to take a deep breath, lean into the present moment (stay out of the past or future), drop reactivity, and feel and breathe for at least 10 seconds. Allow yourself to respond or react only when you feel a true connection to your center.
Give these tips a test drive, and remember, we are always one deep breath away from feeling lighter, freer, and more connected.