• Man holds the side of his nose shut with his thumb.

    Take a deep breath: The 3-minute exercise for inner peace.

    The best tool for relaxation is always with us: our own breath. Bring order to the chaos in your mind in no time at all.

    Text: Rebecca Randak

Reducing stress through correct breathing.

It is something the old yogis always knew: controlling our breathing can work wonders and release unimagined potential. They would retreat to their caves for days on end in order to experiment with the so-called pranayama, the yogic breathing techniques. “Prana” comes from Sanskrit and essentially means “breath” or, more freely translated, “life energy”. “Yama” means “to restrain”. Therefore, when practising Pranayama, one doesn’t simply allow the breath to flow as we do in everyday activities, but restrains it by holding one’s breath or by extending or shortening the various phases of breathing. By consciously controlling our breath in this way, we can – if we practice regularly – influence how we feel and thus lastingly alleviate anxiety, stress and sleeping disorders.

Man sits on bed and looks out the window.
Man writing “breath” on a fogged window.

What sorrow and breathing have in common.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with both sorrow and inspiration. Although both subjects appear at first glance to be very opposed, they actually have more in common than you might think: in times of sorrow, people do not have much space in their life for inspiration and ideas which come from deep within. Everything is clouded by sadness and solemnity. At the same time this means that when we can overcome our sorrow, the inspiration will return.

  • Man relaxes and sucks in air.

“Inspiration” means “to inhale”.

Sorrow is the kind of emotion that most people prefer to mentally pack away in a box, to be tied up and never opened again. But whether we like it or not – it usually finds a way to come to the surface. “This often occurs unconsciously and in the form of anxiety disorders, stress, burnout or outbursts of rage,” explains the author, speaker and breathing specialist Max Strom.

Besides, “inspiration” means “to inhale”. It is therefore not surprising that conscious breathing proves to be a reliable method which allows us to gain access to our own feelings, to appreciate them but also let them go – an important reason why the breath plays such a major role in virtually all therapeutic traditions.

The effects of breathing techniques.

Not all breathing techniques have the same effect. If you breathe in through your left nostril only, for example, and breathe out through the right nostril (by pressing the other nostril closed with your finger), this has an extremely calming effect. However, breathing in the opposite direction, in through the right nostril and out through the left nostril, has a very invigorating effect. In turn, alternate nostril breathing involving a combination of these two techniques has a very balancing effect. If you are experiencing specific problems and are looking for a suitable breathing technique, it makes sense to consult a specialist about this. For little breaks in between, here we have instructions for the 4-7-8 yogic breathing technique, which Max Strom recommends in particular to relieve stress.

Man holds the side of his nose closed with ring finger.
Man stretches and yawns.

Exercise for inner peace: 4-7-8 breathing.

Just a few minutes of conscious breathing every day are enough to transfer from a state of active stress into a state of passive rest. You can practise this breathing technique in the office, in the morning before getting up or even at night before going to sleep:

● Place your hands on your ribs at the side and exhale completely. Now count to four while inhaling strongly to fill your lungs completely.

● Hold your breath and count to seven.

● Now breathe out evenly through your mouth on eight beats and start the next round.

Repeat this exercise a few times. After just three minutes, which corresponds to around ten exhalations, you will be able to relieve your inner tension. You can extend the exercise at any time, of course. Incidentally, in classic yoga, breathing exercises are used as preparation in order to move one’s attention away from outward practices, such as postures, and towards our inner self. Conscious breathing is therefore ideally suited as preparation for silent meditation, as it serves to calm the mind and senses more than any other relaxation technique. Give it a try!