Stressed? Worried about your immunity? Learn how to do two of my favourite Yoga breathing exercises which will help you with both.
I briefly touched on them in my last post, My Top 4 Yoga Tools for Buidling Immunity and felt like I needed to give them a little more celebratory status because although breathing might be as natural as anything, it really is your best buddy for self-healing. Uiiayi and Nadhi Shodhana are amazing tools to help reduce stress and build immunity.
A little story for you first………..
Before I found Yoga, I was a non-stop kinda person. I felt that the only way to succeed and feel productive, in all areas of my life, was to keep insanely busy. Resting and taking time out was non-negotiable because in my eyes, it was a waste of time and there was always something more pressing to do.
Yoga taught me my approach to life was not doing me any favours at all. I felt tired and wired all the time, was ill a lot and I also had problems sleeping well. I realised that my busy-ness was keeping me in a constantly active state (flight and fight) and that was lowering my immunity and stopping me from enjoying life.
Busy-ness leads to burn out, higher levels of stress and poorer immunity
The thing is, burning the candle at both ends and not scheduling in ‘rest’ and ‘repair’ time is not good for our health or our immunity. It also isn’t very productive.
The biggest surprise for me was when I started to take more time out for myself – whether it was a full yoga practice or just some breathing, I discovered that I when I was working again, I was able to get more stuff done in a less amount of time.
I wanted to share this story just in case you are sitting there telling yourself that you just don’t have the time for any self care. You do, I promise you, but if you need a little more persuation, here is a little reminder of the amazing benefits of breath work.
How Breath Work Reduces Stress and Boosts Your Immunity
- Your body has time to repair and rejuvenate its system
- Focussed breathing allows your mind to rest and re-focus.
- Deep breathing boosts your lung function allowing toxins to be removed from your system.
- Your nervous system is balanced and rebooted.
- Your stress and anxiety levels drop and your ability to handle life challenges increases.
So without further ado, here are two of my favourite breathing practices; my go to friends for when life gets tough or I feel myself going back to my old habits.
Ujjayi Breath (Victory Breath)
Ujjayi breath (or ocean, victorious breath) is often used whilst moving through a sequence of yoga postures but can also be used as a practice on its own. It works so well because it creates a very soft sound as you breathe and this sound can really help you stay focussed and attentive on the breath. It often has a nickname of Darth Vader breath because – well you can end up sounding a little bit like Darth Vader, which being a Star Wars fan, I can’t help but love 😁
How to Do It
- Sit up tall with your shoulders relaxed away from your ears and close your eyes. To prepare, become aware of your breath without trying to control it at all. Then begin to inhale and exhale through your mouth.
- Bring your awareness to your throat. On your exhales, gently close the back of the throat (like you are going to mist up a mirror). You will hear a soft wave like sound.
- Once you are comfortable with the exhale, begin to apply the same contraction of the throat to the inhales. You should, once again, hear a soft wave like sound.
- When you are able to control the throat on both the inhale and the exhale, close the mouth and begin breathing through the nose. Continue applying the same toning to the throat that you did when the mouth was open. The breath will still make a noise coming in and out of the nose. This is ujjayi breath.
- Avoid tightening the throat too much. It is a very gentle constriction
- Not working for you on both the inhale and exhale? No worries, just keep it going on the exhale and let the inhale happen without the throat constriction.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
I choose this breathing tool if I am having a particularly difficult or stressful day. Nadi Shodhana, works so well, because not only are you focussing on your breath, but you are also closing and opening your nostrils with your fingers. This added component does wonders for helping you stay connected and not go off on a tangent (or back to your busy worrying mind). If you suffer from insomnia, try this before you turn out the light; I promise you it will help.
How to Do It
- Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open.
- Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
- With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
- Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
- Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
- Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
- Inhale through the right side slowly.
- Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
- Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
- Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily. Close both nostrils and pause.
- Open the right nostril and breath out and so on.
- Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
- Consistency is helpful, so try to match the length of your inhales, pauses, and exhales. For example, you can start to inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, hold for five. You can slowly increase your count as you refine your practice.
- If you find you need calming and balancing, start inhaling through your left nostril. If you need energising and waking up, then start with the right nostril
Closing Thoughts and Take Aways
👉If you are a busy bee and find it really hard to take time out, my invitation to you is to please give one of the breathing exercises below a go. Just 5 minutes is enough. Stick a timer on, don’t overthink it and start to support your body’s immunity today.
👉If you are a visual learner I have created a tutorial video of both of the breathing practices here:
👉If you are interested in a longer tutorial on how to breathe well why not watch my balloon breath breathing video. This tutorial will teach you the basics of how to breath using your diaphragm (the key to breathing for health).