Inspired by a recent episode of Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s excellent podcast, I’ve created a new worksheet, which I’ve called ‘Breathing Bingo’. The aim is to see how many of these different breathing techniques you can tick off in any given week – you can either go for a line or attempt to get a ‘full house’!
If you are a teacher, this would make a great tutor time activity, as you could pick one of the breathing techniques to do as a class every day, or even just once a week.
The benefits of focusing on your breathing have been known for millennia and the latest scientific research backs this up. Deep breathing can reduce anxiety, alleviate stress and even boost your immune system – for more information, take a look at James Nestor’s book ‘Breath’, which he a Rangan discuss at length on the podcast.
As someone who loves yoga, mindfulness and meditation, I have been convinced about the benefits of breathing for a while, but I never realised that breathing through your nose is so much more beneficial than breathing through your mouth, for example. Now, whenever I go for a walk, I try to focus on breathing through my nose, rather than my mouth (even when walking uphill) and if I ever take up running again, I’ll be sure to do the same!
The 9 different breathing exercises I’ve included on the bingo card are simple and effective. The details for each one are as follows:
1. 3-4-5 breathing – this is also something I learnt from Dr Chatterjee, as it is featured in his first book, ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’. You simply breathe in for a count of 3, hold for 4 and breathe out for 5. Try to do this for 5 minutes, but if you only have one spare minute, that’s fine as well!
2. Slow your breathing down to 6 breaths a minute – according to the research cited in Nestor’s book, around 6 breaths per minute is the optimum number… try it and you’ll be surprised by how much calmer you instantly feel!
3. Go for a walk/run and focus on nasal breathing – as mentioned above, this has numerous benefits and is a great way of focusing on your breathing while you are exercising.
4. 2 minutes of alternate nostril breathing – this is an ancient yoga breathing technique and is so calming. It is done as follows: Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Place the middle and index fingers of your right hand in between your eyebrows. Exhale completely through the left nostril, and slowly breathe in again. Then let go of the right nostril, close the left nostril and breathe out then in again. Continue to do this for 2 minutes or so. For more yoga breathing exercises, take a look at here.
5. Take 5 deep breaths – I usually try to breathe in for a count of 4 and out for 5. This would slow your breathing down to around the optimal 6 breaths per minute as well!
6. Box breathing – simply breathe in for a count of 4 (or more/less if you prefer), hold for 4, breathe out for 4 and hold again for 4.
7. Full belly breaths – another great yoga breathing exercise, this is best done while lying down. It involves placing you hand on your stomach, breathing deeply into your belly, feeling it rise as you breathe in and then keeping your hand on your stomach, feeling it go down as you breathe out. When you feel like you have breathed in as much as you possibly can, try to go a bit further by opening up your chest as well. You’ll be amazed by how deeply you can breathe!
8. Count your breaths – recommended by Dr Chatterjee in his book ‘Feel Better in 5’, this is such a simple exercise and again is so effective. As you breathe in and out, count your breaths. This is a great way of remaining focused on your breath, but if your mind wanders, bring your focus back to your breathing with no judgement, and simply start again. Either do this for 5 minutes or until you can count up to 30, or 50, or 100!
9. Lion’s breath – this is such a fun exercise and maybe not one to do in public if you’re worried about looking a bit silly! To do this exercise, you breathe in deeply, then open your mouth, stick your tongue out and say ‘ha’ as you exhale forcefully. For a more detailed explanation and link to a great YouTube video, have a look here.