The Best Breathing Techniques and Yoga for Stress Relief
BLOG / April 13, 2023
If tension and anxiety from stress are undermining your desire for self-care, or even your ability to successfully navigate life and relationships, it’s time to adopt some mindful breathing techniques and yoga for stress relief into your daily routine.
Think about a time when you felt energized, yet calm and centered. Tap into that feeling.
What were you doing? How was your inner dialogue? Who was with you?
If you’re yearning to return to that state of bliss and harmony, these simple yoga positions and breathing exercises will equip you with the tools you need to shift your body out of fight or flight mode and into homeostasis.
Breathing is at the core of our stress response…it lies at the ceyoga flownter of every action and reaction we make and have. Certain breathing techniques have been proven to promote cellular healing and recovery while equalizing your body’s stress response.
The breathing techniques we’re sharing today can be done anywhere and atUjjayi Pranayama any time.
Using yoga for stress relief is another great way to use the tools you already have in order to manage a stressful situation or environment. You don’t need any special equipment – or even a large degree of flexibility – for these yoga positions.
Put your devices on Do Not Disturb for 5-10 minutes and pick 1-3 of the techniques and poses below to re-center yourself before continuing your day.
The Best Breathing Techniques to Help Reduce Stress
Everything you do, from the pace you keep and the choices you make to the feelings you have, is influenced by the rhythm of your breath. Normally, your body is great at breathing for you. Your breath flows in and out without any thought on your part. This automatic breath is flexible and free, helping you thrive.
When you are stressed, though, you unconsciously hold or restrict your breathing. This altered state of breathing is a stress response, your body is merely surviving.
Our bodies are extremely versatile and can quickly recover, but if you let yourself remain in a stressed state too long, it can have adverse effects on your health.
Enter mindful breathwork and yoga for stress relief.
Mindfully practicing 4-7-8 breathing and Ujjayi Pranayama helps you reclaim your relaxed, natural breath and guide your body back to a calm, yet alert state.
How to do 4-7-8 Breathing
This breathing technique is a great complement to yoga for stress relief, as it helps calm your mind and body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and improving oxygenation in the body.
4-7-8 breathing has even been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to your feelings of anxiety and tension. It can be used anytime, anywhere, and is a great way to take a few moments of mindful self-care and incorporate stress relief practices into our busy lives.
- Find a comfortable seated position, either on a chair or on the floor with your back straight.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- With your mouth closed, inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, for a count of 8.
- Repeat steps for a total of 4 breath cycles.
After completing the fourth cycle, breathe normally for a few moments and then resume your regular activities or begin doing some yoga for stress relief.
How to do Ujjayi Pranayama
As you begin your stress-reducing yoga flow, incorporating yogic breathing techniques will help you move through the postures and connect more deeply to your body. While 4-7-8 breath is best practiced in stillness, Ujjayi breath can be aligned with all yoga positions.
To start, stay in a seated position with your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Once you find your Ujjayi breath, you can begin to move through your yoga for stress relief flow.
- Close your mouth and take a few deep breaths through your nose.
- Slightly constrict the back of your throat slightly, as if you are trying to fog up a mirror. This will create a soft, hissing sound in the back of your throat.
- Inhale deeply through your nose while maintaining the constriction in the back of your throat. You should feel the cool, cleansing breath moving past the back of your throat and into your lungs.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly. Once again, you should feel the breath moving past the back of your throat and out of your nose, creating a soft, hissing sound.
- Repeat while doing yoga for stress relief.
5 Stress-Reducing Yoga Postures
Yoga is a fantastic coping tool that’s available to everyone. You don’t need a gym membership or any specific clothing or equipment to start.
If you’re doing yoga for stress relief, you can even do most of these poses right where you are!
In fact, we’re going to start this yoga for stress relief flow by sitting in a chair and gradually moving to the floor. Get ready to banish stress, be it in the airport, at your desk, or on your couch after a long day.
1. Seated Crescent Moon Pose (Anjaneyasana)
Sit towards the front of your chair with your feet flat on the ground and your spine straight. Bring your hands to your hips and inhale deeply.
Exhale and lean your torso to the right, extending your right arm overhead and reaching towards the left. Keep your left hand on your left hip to anchor yourself to the chair.
Inhale and lengthen through your spine, reaching upwards through your right fingertips.
Exhale and deepen the stretch by leaning further to the right, keeping your right shoulder relaxed away from your ear.
Hold the stretch for several deep breaths, feeling the stretch on the left side of your body.
Repeat the same yoga position on the left side, inhaling deeply and reaching your left arm overhead as you lean to the right.
If you are in public, you can modify this stress-reducing yoga pose by keeping your hands in your lap and continuing through the movements for the same calm-inducing benefits.
2. Chair Pigeon Pose
Move right into this pose. Place your right ankle on your left knee, keeping your right foot flexed to protect your knee. Keep your spine straight and your chest lifted, and take a few deep breaths.
If you feel a stretch in your right hip, you can stay here and hold this stress-reducing yoga pose.
If you want to deepen the stretch, inhale deeply and lean forward slightly, keeping your spine straight. As you exhale, gently press down on your right knee with your right hand, using your left hand to support yourself on the chair.
Hold for several deep breaths. To come out of this posture, release your hands from your knee and sit upright again. Then, repeat the same stretch on the opposite side by placing your left ankle on your right knee.
3. Desk Upward Dog Pose
This will be the last semi-seated pose in your yoga for stress relief flow.
Remember the Ujjayi breath we mentioned earlier? This yoga position will open your chest, help you come back to your breath, and help you reset your mind.
Begin by sitting at your desk with your legs hip-width apart and your feet flat on the ground. Then, place your hands on your desk, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers pointing forward.
Inhale deeply and lengthen through your spine, lifting your chest and rolling your shoulders back.
As you exhale, slowly lower your torso towards the desk, keeping your hands in place.
Once you’ve lowered your chest as far as comfortable, hold the pose and take several deep breaths. To deepen the stretch, you can gently press your hands into the desk and lift your chest slightly.
Hold the pose for several deep breaths.
Do you feel more calm yet? Yoga for stress relief can start to work after just a few minutes. But we have a few more deeply-relaxing yoga positions for you to try.
4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Let’s take your yoga for stress relief to the floor. If you’re at work or in public, you might simply want to end your flow here. Otherwise, continue with your Ujjayi breath, and let’s get into Child’s Pose.
Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Slowly lower your hips back towards your heels, keeping your hands and arms extended in front of you.
As you lower your hips, allow your forehead to rest on the floor or a cushion.
Keep your arms extended in front of you or bring them back along your sides, whichever feels more comfortable. Take several deep, mindful breaths, allowing your body to relax into the pose.
If you feel any discomfort in your knees, you can place a cushion or blanket under them for support.
To come out of the pose, slowly lift your hips back up towards your hands, coming back onto all fours.
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Savasana is often touted as the most relaxing yoga position there is. So, if you’re doing yoga for stress relief, you should finish your flow lying on the floor reveling in the experience that is Corpse Pose.
Lie down on your back on a comfortable surface such as a yoga mat or blanket, with your legs extended and slightly apart and your arms by your sides, palms facing up.
Allow your body to relax completely, releasing any tension in your muscles.
Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you continue to breathe deeply, focus your attention on each part of your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to the crown of your head.
Scan each part of your body for any tension or discomfort, and consciously release it with each exhale. Allow your mind to become calm and still, letting go of any thoughts or worries. Become a blank slate.
Remain in this relaxed state for several minutes, or as long as you like.
When you are ready to come out of the pose, begin to deepen your breath, wiggling your fingers and toes and gently moving your body. Roll onto your right side, using your right arm as a pillow, and take a few deep breaths.
Slowly sit up and come back to awareness and the world in a relaxed, seated position.
Deep breath. Exhale. Audible sigh.
Do you feel better?
If you’ve worked through this flow, you know firsthand how great these breathing techniques and yoga for stress relief can be. You also have an arsenal of tools at your disposal, ready to naturally and quickly disarm your body’s stress response the next time a difficult situation arises.