Five ballet inspired breathing exercises to calm your mind

We’re living in stressful times.

Levels of anxiety have rocketed due to coronavirus, views on how to best move forward socially are polarised, and after a year of considerable isolation there is a period of adjustment to go through.

When moments of emotional and mental unease hit, it can be hard to know how to work through them.

Breathing exercises – though they’ve become cliché to recommend – have the benefit of requiring nothing but you, your focus, and your breath.

These things will always be with you, and can be part of toolkit to help ground mentally in the moments you feel unstuck no matter the location.

Over the pandemic, we’ve seen a mix of disciplines apply the breathing practices that come with their craft to coronavirus healing contexts, such as the English National Opera who’ve launched a breathing programme for long covid patients.

Rhea Sheedy, founder of Ballet Fusion, blends the techniques of ballet, pilates and yoga in classes designed to promote general fitness.

With those practices in mind, there are certain breathing exercises that can be taken and used, no matter your experience level in these modes of fitness.

Alternate nostril breathing (1 minute)

‘Nostril breathing is known in some yoga practices as nadi shodhana which in Sanskrit means channel purification.

‘It’s thought to help promote balance, clarity and relaxation. Biologically, it’s proven to improve lung function, lower heart rate, blood pressure and sympathetic stress,’ Rhea says.

How to do it:

Cupped hand breathing (1 minute)

‘In moments of stress or panic, we breathe faster (almost hyperventilating sometimes), which means we quickly lose carbon dioxide.

‘This can lead to dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, tingling in the hands and feet – which can add to the anxiety, making everything seem worse.

‘Although we’re taught that increased oxygen is good for us, our CO2 levels have a direct impact on our levels of calmness,’ Rhea says.

How to do it:

Port de Bras with breathing (2 minutes)

‘This is a great exercise that can really help to centre you and calm your mind.

‘I love this one because many of us sit at a desk all day so a lot of tension can build up in our back.

‘Not only does this help to calm us but it’s also great at stretching out the back,’ Rhea explains. 

How to do it:

Shoulder lifts with exhaling (1 minute)

‘We hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders and this quick check-in will help to relieve that pent-up stress,’ Rhea says.

How to do it: 

Prayer inhale, push exhale (1 minute)

‘This can be done sitting or standing and is a lovely movement to do before bed or first thing in the morning,’ Rhea adds.

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