The “Triangle Breath” is such a simple, easy and effective technique, that can be utilised at any time that you’d like some more grounding and calm – I often practice this when stuck in traffic, or waiting in lines 🙂
One of the common foundations of anxiety-soothing practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and meditation is attention to the breath. Modern research confirms what these healing philosophies have understood for millennia: the fastest way to calm down is to take long, slow, deep breaths, while being sure to focus on the exhale and letting go of all tension in the body. When we are stressed, we tend to take short, shallow breaths, with a focus on the inhalation – for many of us, this is a common pattern of breathing, even when we are not consciously feeling stressed or anxious. Check in with yourself: how are you breathing right now? Shallow breathing activates our sympathetic nervous system – our “fight or flight” mode – and can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. Slow, deep breathing is a signal to our nervous system that all is safe, and switches us into “rest & digest” mode, governed by the parasympathetic nervous system.
With this in mind, a simple way to calm the nervous system is the Triangle Breath. It’s named after a triangle as the breath is divided into 3 equal parts – an inhale, an exhale and then a period of holding out (or finishing up the exhale if you still have some air in your lungs). The Triangle Breath is ideally practiced lying down (so that you can relax all your muscles) but can also be done sitting, or even standing. Get into a comfortable position, and rest your hands on the lower edge of your ribcage. As you breath in and out, you should feel your ribcage and belly move with the breath. Inhale into the belly for a count of 3, then gently exhale for a count of 3, and wait for a count of 3 (or continue exhaling if you haven’t run out of air). Repeat this cycle for 3-5 minutes. As you begin to calm down, you’ll likely be able to extend the count for each side of the triangle, up to 4-6 counts per breath. Go with what feels natural and easiest for you – the greatest benefits come with allowing the breath to come and go with ease; let go of any need to force the breath and observe your body soften as you do so.
It often happens that as we slow down, tune inwards and turn away from outward distractions, we may become aware of stresses or emotions in our body. If you feel able to comfortably and safely do so, be present with those emotions. I often find that by being with a particular emotion for a few breaths, or a few minutes, it becomes less insistent and often yields to something else. When we consider that “e-motions” are “energy in motion”, we can see how allowing our emotions to float past like puffy clouds in the sky supports the freeing of our energy flow.
More detail on how to switch into rest & digest mode in this post.