December 25, 2012

Improve your health and wellness with these breathing exercises

Here’s how to make each inhalation and exhalation really count.

Breathing ExercisesBreathing is an unconscious behavior we repeat approximately 23,000 times a day with nary a thought. But by giving it attention at least intermittently throughout our daily existence, we can reap amazing benefits, including increased energy and a welcome reduction of stress.

These two exercises, courtesy of yoga master Jill Miller of, can be done anywhere, anytime you want to relax and de-stress your day.

1. Exhale Extension

This exercise is designed to help you double the length of your exhalation in comparison to your inhalation. Using your own beating heart as a metronome, you’ll count four heartbeats as you inhale and eight heartbeats during the exhale. If you find yourself gasping for the next breath, then reduce it to three counts per inhale and six counts per exhale.

As your breath capacity enlarges and your muscles of respiration are growing stronger, work your way up over time to a five-heartbeat inhalation and 10-heartbeat exhalation.

You can sit in the yoga lotus position to do this if you desire or just comfortably Indian-style. “You can place your index and thumb together to feel your heartbeat, or place one finger lightly on the side of your throat to feel your pulse,” Miller says.

2. Topsy Turvy

Prop your pelvis on top of a large, firm pillow against a wall. Extend your legs upward with your heels against the wall. In this position, practice the Exhale Extension breathing exercise, working on increasing the length of your inhalation and exhalation. You may not be able to do it at first, but over time, work up to a 10-minute session.

“Inverting your body so that your pelvis is higher than your heart is deeply tranquilizing,” Miller explains. “When your body is inverted, the natural pull of gravity helps your diaphragm to exhale passively during the exhale phase. This results in a tremendously refreshed diaphragm.”

Michael Berg contributed to this story.

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