It’s easy to feel centered when you’re out racking up steps or holding a downward dog in yoga class. But let’s face it, your life isn’t a walk in the park 24/7. From big deadlines at the office to getting stuck in traffic, stress happens! And with it comes an increased heart rate and shortness of breath. But here’s the good news: Research shows that one of the most effective ways to combat stress is also one of the easiest—deep breathing.
“Deep breathing increases oxygen in the blood and improves cardiovascular function,” says Andrew Busch, a fitness trainer and Ph.D. candidate in sports management. “It can also lower your heart rate.” An effect yoga practitioners have tapped into for centuries.
“Pranayama or ‘vital air’ is a cleansing, deep breathing technique that promotes focus for physical endurance, rids your body of toxins and quiets anxiety,” explains yoga expert Linda Bhreathnach. “And the more you do it, the more you’ll realize the benefits.” Best of all, you can do it anywhere—on a yoga mat, in your living room, even sitting in your office chair. Ready to find your Zen? Here’s a simple, stress-busting, deep-breathing technique to try.
What it is: Breathing with your diaphragm instead of your chest allows oxygen to go deep into your lungs.
How-to: Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Make sure you’re sitting up with good posture. Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for one count and then slowly release the air through pursed lips for four counts. When you’re doing it correctly, your belly will move more than your chest.
How long: 10 breaths per session
If you own a Fitbit Blaze or Fitbit Charge 2, the Relax feature allows your tracker to create a 2- or 5-minute breathing session based on your current heart rate. Simply press start and follow the prompts as you deeply inhale and exhale.
Not sure if your deep breathing session worked? Check your heart rate! When you compare your rates before and after breathing, you should find your heart has slowed and you feel more calm. (To manually track your heart rate: Place your first two fingers on the inside of your wrist, beneath, count the beats for 15 seconds and then multiply that number by 4 to get your beats per minute.)
It’s that simple. The phrase “take a breather” has never been more on point!