Learning to control your breath is a great coping skill to manage difficult emotions and physical symptoms as they come up. When our bodies or minds perceive stress or danger, our Central Nervous System triggers the Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response. This response sends our body into a state that alters how we perceive the world around us. It changes our perception of time, our memory, and our ability to think clearly, and to make decisions. Unfortunately, we can get stuck in this response state when we have a deadline at work, are chasing after kids, feel discriminated against, go through a big life transition, or experience a trauma. Of course, conscious breathing is not the end all be all fix, however, it is a simple and free way for us to pull ourselves out of the Fight, Flight, or Freeze response, even if temporarily to feel a sense of ease and control.
While we breathe constantly, the ability to pay attention to and then adjust how we breathe can be tricky. The videos below review a few different types of breathing techniques. I recommend practicing these skills on a regular, weekly basis so they become muscle memory and more accessible for when you need them the most. With practice and understanding of how these benefit your body and mind, you can 'prescribe' yourself what you need in the moment.
Building on the ratio breathing skills, square breathing works with breath retention, the ability to hold our breath. During square breathing, we inhale for the same count as we exhale, but instead of going right into the next breath, we hold our breath for the same count. For example, we breath in and count to 3, then hold our breath for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 3, hold the breath for 3, and then repeat with the next inhale. Square breathing helps to focus your mind by providing direction for your thoughts, calms your body by activating your Parasympathetic Nervous System, and increases your connection to the present moment.
In this video, we'll learn the basics of ratio breathing, and how we can adapt it based on our mental health needs. Ratio breathing refers to changing the pace of our inhalation and our exhalation. We can shorten or lengthen our breath to create different effects. For example, a longer exhale can create a sense of calm, whereas a longer inhale can energize or motivate us. Practice these before a presentation, before bed, or when you notice yourself becoming stressed or overwhelmed.
Rescue breathing is beneficial if you are feeling out of control or physical discomfort, such as panic. Viloma Pranayama is a style of breathwork used in Yoga, based on ratio breathing. Depending on the effect you want, you would lengthen your inhale or exhale breath.