Exhale!: Keep Your Peace With These Simple Breathing Exercises 

Incorporating breathing exercises into your life can not only lower your stress level, but it can also help you relax and fall asleep faster. Find out more from an expert!

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Photos by Hannah Bickmore

If you’re reading this, then your New Year goals more than likely include keeping stress to a minimum and protecting your peace as you continue your journey to a softer lifestyle. We get you!

With so much going on around us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with thoughts, ideas, and emotions— both good and bad. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle of modern society can sometimes feel suffocating, especially when you can’t seem to find balance in your life. 

Have you ever found yourself holding your breath? You aren’t the only one. According to Breathe In Chill Out, it can be a sign of anxiety. When we’re stressed, our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode, which may cause us to hold our breath. However, the problem with holding our breath when we are not in danger is it can contribute to a variety of physical symptoms including high blood pressure, stress on the heart, and headaches.  

According to Bridget Aileen Sicsko, the co-founder of Visibility on Purpose and certified yoga teacher, conscious breathing exercises may be key to staying balanced in 2024. 

“Incorporating breathing exercises into your life can not only lower your stress level, but it can also help you relax, fall asleep faster, and enjoy the simple moments of life more,” the wellness expert shares exclusively with BrownStyle Magazine. “Peace is only a breath away!”

For the past 7 years, she has assisted countless people from different walks of life to find balance in their busy lifestyles through yoga, meditation, and breathing.

woman relaxing in a chair
Photo by Hannah Bickmore

“What I love most about breathing exercises is that there is no barrier to entry,” Sicsko explains, pointing out you naturally have the tools to add this exercise to your wellness routine. “All you need is your mind and your body. When you engage in conscious breathing activities, you can shift physiological capabilities within the body like your heartbeat, nervous system regulation, and an overall psycho-physical response.”

Sicsko goes on to explain that different kinds of breathing practices affect the body differently. “Pranayama activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the rest and digest response in the body. These types of exercises slow down the heart rate helping you to control your emotions and better handle stress in certain situations. Breathing exercises like Wim Hof (Breath of Fire) activate the sympathetic nervous system to energize the system and create a subtle stress response in the body.”

For those who are beginners and looking for a good place to start to combat anxiety and stress, Sicsko highly suggests adding a square or box breath technique to your “self-care toolkit.”

Happy woman
Photo by Hannah Bickmore

“Breathwork can be beneficial in any situation that creates a nervous system response— whether that be in social situations or new experiences like presenting in front of an audience. If you’re overly anxious or stressed, incorporating a square or box breath can be simple, yet effective. Focusing on a longer exhale can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.”

The public speaker adds that breathing exercises can also help with family gatherings and networking events. “Say you’re a person who gets nervous in large social situations or you’re hosting a party, take just a few minutes to practice your breathing exercises before you head out the door to feel more level-headed and relaxed.”

Below, Bridget Aileen Sicsko shares her instructions on how to perform beginner breathing exercises from the comfort of your own home. 

Step-by-step ‘box breath’ instructions 

The most simple and effective breathing exercise I always recommend to beginners is a simple box breath. 

  1. First, find a comfortable seated position where you won’t have any distractions. 
  2. Adjust your posture and simply close your eyes. 
  3. Begin to envision a square in your mind with all four equal sides. 
  4. Begin to inhale through your nose for a count of 4. 
  5. Hold your breath for a count of 4. 
  6. Exhale through the nose for a count of 4. 
  7. And hold for a count of 4. 
  8. Repeat and continue this for 1-3 minutes. 

Shitali breath instructions

Another favorite breathing exercise is a cooling breath called Shitali Breath. If you’re ever angry or overheated, a cooling breath could be your perfect remedy.

  1. Again find a nice, comfortable seating position and close the eyes. 
  2. Begin to inhale through an “O” shaped mouth, close the mouth, and exhale through your nose. As you do this, you’ll notice a cooling sensation coming in through the mouth. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited and condensed for clarity. 
Tweety Elitou is not new to the publishing world. Nurtured by parents who are authors and publishers, the Philadelphia native began her career as a fashion writer at the age of 13. As the former Sr. Lifestyle Editor of BET, Tweety was a key player in expanding the audience and reshaping the lifestyle vertical on the brand’s website. After working for notable media brands, the editor took some time off to enjoy the peace and pleasure of self-care and soft living. It was during this period that BrownStyle Magazine was created.