Breathing is how our body obtains that precious, precious oxygen that our cells use for aerobic respiration, and also how we get rid of that nasty byproduct carbon dioxide. So it’s not surprising that consciously controlling how we breathe can have strong effects on our body. Controlled breathing can have beneficial effects on our mind and body – lowering blood pressure, changing blood pH, promoting feelings of calm/relaxation, increasing alertness, etc…
I’ve found some pretty cool and easy-to-do breathing exercises, all of which help to increase alertness and response rate (I’m a student that sleeps late so there’s a trend here…).
Keep in mind that there are NO randomized controlled trials actively studying the benefits of breathing versus placebo (imagine how that grant discussion goes…”I want funding to study breathing”). So the efficacy of the following breathing techniques hasn’t been statistically proven, but really there are no adverse-effects so why not take a shot :P. Unless you have a breathing disorder (COPD, asthma).
Nadi Shodhana aka Alternate Nostril Breathing:
How it’s done: This breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unites the right and left sides of the brain. Hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with your finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi shodhana is said to make people feel more awake – like a cup of coffee.
Kapalabhati aka Skull Shining Breath:
How it’s done: Ready to get your head into the game? Begin with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower abdomen. The pace is one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.
When it works best: When it’s time to GAME ON. It is thought to warm up the body, shake off stale energy and wake up the brain. If alternate nostril breathing is like coffee, this one is like an expresso shot.
Two easy breathing exercises to energize up – if you combine these with caffeine, I bet you’ll become superhuman. The question is, will even being superhuman help me ace this therapeutics final? Haha.