3 Breathing Exercises to Master Your Mood

WRITTEN BY Zena Wozniak

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For when you don’t have time to burn sage.

Here’s a life hack for you: manipulating your mood can be as simple as controlling the breath. Leah Schlackman from Love Yoga in Los Angeles teaches us three breathing exercises to regulate your mood naturally. These exercises can help wake you up, integrate the body and mind, or even calm the nervous system. (We suspect they’ll also do wonders for tiring holiday travels or stressful family encounters.) Read the descriptions for each technique below or scroll to the bottom to see Leah demonstrate them on our YouTube channel.

Skull-Shining Breath - Breathing Exercises - The Wellnest by HUM Nutrition

Kapalabhati (Skull-Shining Breath)

What It’s Good for: Clearing out bad vibes.

How to: Sit yourself up well. Lift the arms into a wide v-shape above the head. Turn your palms to face the ceiling and makes cups with the hands. Take a deep breath in and exhale completely. Inhale a smaller sip of air, seal the lips and begin to take sharp, short exhalations through both nostrils. The belly will snap up and in with each exhalation.

Leah’s Tip: “It’s supposed to be a little bit agitating and uncomfortable. You’re starting to move things around, loosen the junk and unstick the muck. You’ll start to feel a lot of heat building structure in the body, which is ideal.”

Bellows Breath - Breathing Exercises - The Wellnest by HUM NutritionBellows Breath - Breathing Exercises - The Wellnest by HUM Nutrition

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)

What It’s Good for:  Waking yourself up first thing in the morning.

How to: Sit up in a kneeling position. Place your hands onto your hip points and close your eyes.  As you inhale, become concave in the chest while the shoulders, elbows and crown of the head reach forward. As you exhale, tilt your pelvis back, lift the chest, bring the face upwards and the elbows back. Continue moving through these two positions in synch with the breath. As the movement becomes more familiar you can increase your speed.

When you feel ready to stop, take a deep breath in and sweep the arms out and up over your head. Link the thumbs and hold your breath in at the top, letting the pressure build. Then, release the breath and arms. Press your hands into the floor or onto the kneecaps giving yourself a moment to ground down.

Leah’s Tip: “Do as many as you’re comfortable with; I like to do 100 breaths. This exercise is really effective at toning the liver, spleen, pancreas and all the other organs in the belly. You’re also working in the hips and the pelvis. Starting your day with movement here will help heat up the rest of your body.”

Alternate-Nostril Breathing - Breathing Exercises - The Wellnest by HUM Nutrition

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate-Nostril Breathing)

What It’s Good for: Calming the mind when you’re stressed or anxious.

How to: Place the left hand open face up on the top of the left thigh. Take your right hand and fold down the middle and index fingers down so that just the pinky, ring finger and thumb remain extended. Bring your thumb to hover over the right nostril. Take a deep breath in through both nostrils. Exhale it out.

Press down on the right nostril with the thumb to close it and inhale through the left nostril. Close both nostrils by pressing down of the left nostril using your ring and pinky finger. Release the thumb and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close both nostrils, then release and exhale through the left side. Inhale through the left nostril, close both nostrils, open the thumb and exhale through the right. Continue moving the breath from side to side.

Leah’s Tip: “You’ll notice throughout the day that one side of the nose becomes less clear to breathe in and out of. This works to manipulate that. By breathing through one side of the nose and then the other, you engage the opposite channels of the body.”

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