Breathing happens in the NOW, so as soon as you bring your attention to it, you are in the present moment. The real challenge, however, is to stay there. The stories on your mind and external distractions will try to pull you away from it. Each second, you have another chance to bring your attention back to the breath. Then, an amazing thing happens: your life is no loger controlled by the regrets about the past and fears of the future. Your breath can become a great anchor to the present moment, a way of grounding yourself. Regulating the breath, is a great way to manage the stress response in your body. Throughout the years of working with clients struggling with stress and anxiety, I have found the following techniques to be especially effective:
1. The 4-7-8 breathing This technique acts like a reset button for a nervous system overwhelmed with stress. Try inhaling through your nose while counting to 4, then hold your breath counting to 7 and breathe out through your mouth, counting to 8. Repeat this technique 4 times and observe its effects on the body. You are likely to experience an immediate release of tension and pleasant feelings of greater calm and balance. This technique has been shown to cause lasting changes in the breathing patterns, if used every day for 4 to 6 weeks.
2. Mindful breathing Mindful breathing focuses on mere awareness of your breathing and not on changing it. You are not forcing you breath to be any particular way, just simply observing it. What ends up happening, however, is that the longer you simply observe your breath, the slower and more relaxed it eventually becomes. Take a moment to become aware of the air coming in through your nostrils and traveling down, filling up your lungs, abdomen and stretching your diaphragm muscles. Then notice the air travelling back up and being exhaled. See how long you can simply observe your breath, before you become distracted. Each time your attention wanders, bring it back to a place in the body, where you can feel your breath most vividly.
3. Alternate nostril breathing This breathing technique can help you to calm an agitated mind. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril, inhale slowly through your left nostril, then hold your breath, while you close off your left nostril, and breath out through your right nostril. Pause for a moment, then breathe in through your right nostril and repeat the process.