The simple act of breathing can take the body from a sympathetic dominant state (fight, flight or freeze) to a parasympathetic state (rest, digest & reproduce). When the body is in a sympathetic dominant state it prioritises survival, switching off processes deemed unnecessary i.e. reproduction, digestion and blood sugar regulation.
Historically, this was useful when faced with the threat of a predator however, in the modern day the threat (stressors) have become the never-ending to-do lists, meetings, family life and lockdowns so we’re spending more time in our sympathetic nervous systems. In practice, we see stress as a contributing factor to a range of conditions where mindfulness and breath-work can greatly benefit.
Participating in regular breath work can calm the mind, improve focus, support fertility and promote digestive secretions.
Here are four breathing techniques to get you into the present moment and into your parasympathetic nervous system. Begin each technique by finding a quiet space (where possible), closing your eyes and bringing focus to your breath.
Three Deep Breaths
- Take a big deep breath in and a long breath out
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen
- Keep the chest still and bring awareness to the abdomen
- Breathe in expanding just the abdomen and breathe out feeling just the belly area contract
- Repeat x3 or as much as you need
See this video for a guided example.
- Inhale while slowly counting to four
- Hold the breath for four seconds
- Slowly exhale through the mouth for four seconds
- Wait four seconds before inhaling again and repeat
Imagine each side of a box as you follow the steps. Click here to watch a video.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Take your right hand and tuck your index and middle fingers towards your palm
- Rest your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril to prepare
- Seal your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril
- Pause your breath, seal your left nostril and exhale out through the right
- Pause, inhale through the right while sealing the left
- Pause, seal the right nostril and exhale through the left
Click here for a video explanation.
- Inhale through the nose counting to four
- Hold the breath for a count of seven
- Exhale through the mouth to the count of eight
Follow this link for a guided session
We recommend 10 minutes of mindful breathing daily to maintain your calm or 10 minutes twice daily if you are going through a stressful time.
Naturopathic support can assist in times of stress, click here to make a booking with one of our practitioners.
AuthorMeghan Donovan BHSc Nat (completing)
Meghan is a senior naturopathy student with a focus on female health and hormones, digestive conditions and mental health support.