Shallow breathing is linked to stress. This pranayama exercise will help you get into a deep state of relaxation, which amongst many other benefits, helps you sleep better.
A fast, shallow breath gives your subconsciousness a signal that you’re in fight or flight mode. All senses are heightened. This is a great natural instinct we humans have because when we’re in danger, we need those senses to spare no effort. But, being in this state constantly leads to stress, which is a danger to your health. This is where pranayama comes into play.
Pranayama is an important part of yoga. It loosely translates to practicing breath control and can consist of aligning your breath with movement, but also as an exercise on its own. There are various ways to practice pranayama. In this article, we’re explaining a method that promotes rest and rejuvenation, helping you to get in a state of deep relaxation. It might be particularly helpful to help you get a restful sleep.
Prolonging your exhales is one of the most efficient ways to calm your mind. With the 7-2-11 method, you inhale for seven seconds, hold your breath for two, and exhale for eleven seconds. This lengthened exhale promotes rest and rejuvenation, and has an instant calming effect on your nervous system.
If you’re a beginner, you may find yourself gasping for air, not able to completely exhale for eleven seconds. The trick is to take it slow. If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to start with 4-1-8. Add a second after every cycle, until you reach 7-2-11.
To get into a deep state of relaxation, breathe into your belly. Most of us are used to breathing into our chests. Shallow breathing at the top of our lungs causes muscles in the front of our neck to become overworked. This can lead to overcompensation of other muscles in the neck and shoulder area, giving you that tight, cramped up feeling. If you recognize yourself in this description, belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can be an absolute gamechanger.
Combining belly breathing with the 7-2-11 method helps you get into a deep state of relaxation. By placing one hand on your belly and one on your heart, you can focus on the rise and fall of your belly.
- Inhale through your nose, breathe into your belly for 7 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
- Exhale slowly for 11 seconds with a slightly open mouth.
- Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
- Repeat for as long as you like, but at least for 5 repetitions.
Once you have completed your pranayama exercise, you should feel a lot calmer, which is a great state to be in to meditate. You can also meditate while you practice pranayama. Visualize your way into a deep, restful sleep with our Deep Sleep Meditation in the Deep Meditate App.
If you are just starting out with pranayama exercises, you may feel a little uncomfortable at first. If you are used to shallow breaths at the top of your lungs, it may even hurt a little when you start using the full capacity of your lungs. With consistent practice, this will change, which will eventually lead to better concentration and an overall feeling of wellbeing.
- Practice while lying down, so you don’t have to worry about keeping an upright posture.
- Lie down on a bolster or rolled-up blanket for extra comfort and to help expand your chest.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes in which you feel most comfortable.
- Place a light object such as your hand, a book or yoga block on top of your belly, and focus on the rise and fall of said object.
With consistent practice, you will notice the ease of the breath. Using your lungs to its full capacity, taking deep, controlled breaths will send a signal up to your subconsciousness that it’s okay to calm down. In the long run, this will promote better focus and reduces stress.
Let us know in the comments if you decide to give this pranayama exercise a try!