By Isabelle Z.

As we turn to any number of external sources to deal with what ails us both physically and mentally, it is easy to overlook some of the simpler solutions that are literally right under our noses. One powerful method of healing is something we do all the time, without giving it a second thought. In fact, you are doing it right now – breathing.

As we inhale and exhale, we don’t usually think too much about the process unless something is going wrong. If you happen to have asthma or a stuffy nose, for example, the awareness of your breathing might be heightened, but for the most part, we all just go about our days taking each breath for granted.

The breath ‘mirrors the mind’

UK yoga guru Jean Hall is on a mission to show people just how powerful breathing techniques can be when it comes to finding happiness and inner peace.

She told Healthista: “The breath is a barometer to our internal state of being. It mirrors the mind. What we feel, the breath registers and responds to … accordingly.”

She says that by bringing a certain level of awareness to your breath and enabling the breath to relax, your body and mind will also be able to relax. In her book, aptly titled Breathe, she outlines some highly effective breathing techniques.

Breathing techniques for improved focus

For example, Hall suggests the Viloma breathing technique to help boost concentration and focus. Here’s a brief look at how to do it:

1. Lie comfortably on your back and place your hands either underneath your navel or next to your body with your palms facing upward.

2. Close your eyes and feel your body soften into the floor as your breath settles into a rhythmic flow.

3. While inhaling, focus on how your belly rises and your breath moves through your lungs as your chest rises. When you exhale, pay attention to how your breath drains downward and your belly sinks.

4. Inhale again but only inhale about 50 percent, and then pause to feel the sensation of being half empty and half full. Then inhale the remaining 50 percent into the upper part of your lungs and take a moment to feel the fullness.

5. Breathe out through your nose slowly and gently, and release the breath entirely. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as many as four times and then return to normal breathing.

6. On your next exhale, breathe out only 50 percent from your upper lungs, and again take note of the feeling of being half full and half empty. Then exhale the other 50 percent from your lower lungs and focus on the feeling of being completely empty. Repeat this step up to four times and then relax.

Breathing techniques for sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep at night or do not wake up feeling refreshed, you can try the following breathing technique to get a good night’s rest:

1. Lie on your back and place the tip of your tongue on the ridge behind your upper teeth.

2. Exhale entirely, allowing your body to sink into your bed.

3. Inhale slowly through your nose while counting to four, then hold the breath as you count to seven.

4. Send the breath out of your mouth with a “whoosh” and rest your tongue on the floor of the mouth. Repeat until you doze off.

Breathing techniques for anxiety and other issues

Anxiety is a very common mental health disorder, and even those who do not suffer from it chronically are prone to bouts of situational anxiety from time-to-time. While Hall believes that nearly every breathing technique can help alleviate anxiety, she says that the self-soothing breath is particularly powerful in this regard, thanks to its gentle rolling motion that seems to take the edge off anxiety and soothe the body and mind. She says that its focus on your body pulls attention away from any mental anxiety.

This technique and many others that address issues like negative emotions and anger are outlined in Hall’s book, and she’s far from the first person to tout the amazing benefits of this approach. Breathing exercises are frequently used in Ayurvedic medicine to bring about tranquility while relieving stress, and it’s also a big part of other holistic therapies such as tai chi and qi gong. If you’re looking for natural ways to deal with physical or emotional issues, why not start with the most basic aspect of human life?