Even before you start reading this article, let’s do a little exercise. Take a couple of seconds to reflect on how you are feeling at this very moment.
- Distracted, jumping from one thought to another
- Dull, slow, and lethargic
- Frustrated and irritated
Have you found out what your predominant emotion at the moment is? Now head to a quiet corner. Sit on the floor, keeping your back straight and relaxing your shoulder. This will take less than 5 minutes, and we’ll still be here.
If you have chosen 1:
- Take a full, deep breath.
- Exhale slowly.
- Fold in the index and middle fingers of the right hand so that they touch your palm.
- Press the right thumb on your right nostril, closing it.
- Breathe in through the left nostril.
- Close off your left nostril with the ring finger and the little finger.
- Breathe out through the right nostril.
- Keeping the left nostril still closed off, breathe in through the right nostril.
- Now press the right nostril with the thumb, release the left nostril, and breathe out through it.
- This is one cycle. Repeat the cycle 20 times.
(Make sure you are comfortably seated and are warm. If necessary, use a backrest, sit on a blanket, and swaddle yourself well.)
If you have chosen 2:
- Breathe in deeply for a full second, expanding your belly to its maximum limit.
- Hold your breath but do not tighten any of your muscles.
- Breathe out through your nose forcefully.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Take a 15 second break and repeat the cycle 20 times.
- Take another 15 second break and repeat the cycle 30 times.
If you have chosen 3:
- Sit cross-legged, with your hands on the knees.
- Pull your tongue out and curl the sides. It will resemble a tube.
- Inhale through the mouth. Can you feel the tongue cool down instantly?
- Close your mouth and exhale through your nose.
- Repeat 20 times.
If you’re feeling experimental, switch these three exercises up, play around with the time, and see how you feel. Stop anytime you feel uncomfortable.
Don’t you feel much better already? Congratulations! You have found the shortcut to balance. Breathing.
Breathe as You Should
You may treat breathing like a background process, paying little heed to whether your breaths are slow and belly deep, but there’s a science to breathing. Shallow and rapid breathing turns on your stress signals, while deep and slow breathing promotes relaxation (you’d know it if you’ve ever tried the 4-7-8 breathing exercise to fall asleep).
So if you can modulate your breath, you can produce any effect you choose – rev up or slack off. What you just did is an example of such breath modulation. It’s called pranayama or controlled breathing. Pranayama can improve your lung capacity, heart health, and digestion, clear up the sinuses, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, sharpen focus, and even improve your immunity.
Imagine feeling sorted whenever you are up and about (or sleeping!). What wouldn’t you do for such a feeling! Well, you don’t need to do much. Just practice the right kind of pranayama, that is the one that suits your metabolic personality, for 10 minutes every day.
Breathing Right for an Anxious Mind
As a person with a predominantly light and quick functional energy, when stress is getting you into a tizzy, apply the “opposites theory” of balance. Your limbs are probably going cold, your thoughts are quick, fluid, and disorderly, and you are finding it difficult to sit still. Choose pranayama that has the opposite qualities. It should warm you up, moor your thoughts and give them stability and order, and make you feel grounded.
Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing
It’s the pranayama you did when you chose option 1. The rhythmic nature of the breathing can help you collect your thoughts. You don’t have to consciously drive away thought from your mind. Just focus on your breath.
Breathing Right for A Dull Mind
Daily stress, whether physical or mental, can sap your energy and make you feel dull and gloomy if you have a predominantly slow and steady type of metabolism. Your thoughts turn fuzzy and your gait slow and heavy. You want to find refuge in sleep. So choose pranayama that will fill you with energy, quicken your breath, and clear your mind.
Bhastrika or Bellows Breath
This is what you did when you chose option 2. The quick, forceful breathing can get your energy flowing again and alleviate the dullness, just like a run would. It would also heat you up.
Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire
- Sit comfortably, straightening your spine.
- Place your hands on the knees, palm up.
- Take a deep breath in.
- When you exhale, pull your stomach in as much as you can, then let go.
- As the stomach goes back to its original shape, you will have automatically breathed in.
- Do 3 sets of 20 breaths with 20 seconds in between each set.
Surya Bhedana or Sun Breaths
For this pranayama, you need to breathe in through your right nostril and breathe out through the left.
- Sit straight.
- Closing the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand, breathe in through the right for a second.
- Now close both nostrils with your ring finger and the thumb and hold your breath for 2 seconds.
- Open your left nostril and breathe out slowly for a second.
- Repeat 20 such cycles.
As you progress with this pranayama, increase the ratio of inhale, hold, and exhale in a 1:4:2 ratio. So if you inhale for 1 second, hold your breath for 4, and exhale for 2 seconds.
Breathing to Calm an Irritated Mind
If you have a predominantly intense metabolism, while you do enjoy stressful and challenging situations quite a bit, things deviating from your plan can make you upset. This manifests in your mind as irritability, frustration, and anger and on your body as heat rashes. What you need is a pranayama that cools you down and relaxes you mentally.
Sheetali or the Cooling Breath
This is what you did when you chose option 3. Air passing over your tongue cools it down, slowly bringing down your body temperature.
Sheetkari or the Hissing Breath
Sheetkari is a variation of the sheetali pranayama.
- Sit comfortably.
- Roll your tongue up and touch the upper palate.
- Clench your teeth.
- Pull yours lips apart.
- Breathe in slowly through clenched teeth. The hissing sound produced while inhaling is what gives the pranayama its name.
- Bend your neck forward so that the chin touches the chest and hold your breath for as long as you are comfortable.
- Slowly release the chin lock and breathe out through your nose.
- Repeat 20 times.
Bhramari Pranayama or Humming Bee Breath
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Close your ears with your thumbs, rest the index fingers on the forehead, above the eyebrows, and make the rest of the fingers touch the bridge of the nose.
- Make the tip of your tongue touch the back of your front teeth.
- Keeping the jaws slightly apart, close your lips.
- Inhale deeply.
- Drop the chin so that it touches your chest.
- While exhaling, make a medium-pitched humming sound.
- You’ll feel the vibration resonate through your head.
- After finishing the exhalation, lift your chin and start again.
- Repeat 10 times.
If you have more than one predominant energy, pick up pranayama that can balance your current mental state.