By Sherise Tan

Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within. ~Author Unknown

As writers, we sit for long periods of time in one spot, pounding away on our laptops. However, it can be very taxing on the mind to produce content throughout the day. It’s not uncommon for our mind to begin to lose focus and fall into what we call the dreaded ‘writer’s block’.

The good news is that we can use some simple breathing exercises to transition to an optimal state of functioning in just a few minutes. These exercises can be used to kickstart your morning, done after lunch before food coma kicks in or anytime you need a mental boost, all without relying on a cup of joe to feel alert and focused.

In traditional yoga practice, the quality of your breath affects the quality of your mind. With the use of correct breathing techniques, we are able to open up the obstructions in our breath, increase energy and creativity, and allow in more freedom of thought.

  1. Abdominal Breathing

This technique is about full belly breathing, which helps to control your stress levels. First of all, sit up straight in a comfortable seated position and have one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in through your nostrils, and start to feel the air enter your lungs with a rise in your chest, and continue to fill up your diaphragm with a rise in your belly as well. Concentrate on taking deep full breaths all the way down into your belly.

Exhale the way it came, with air exiting your belly first, then your lungs as you breathe out completely.

Repeat by breathing slowly and deeply, taking six to 10 breaths per minute in this way. Do this for about 10 minutes a day to reduce your heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels.  

  1. Progressive Relaxation

To release tension in your body, you can practise tensing and relaxing each muscle group from head to toe while concentrating on your breathwork. Start from your toes and feet, and then move up your body to your calves, thighs, glutes, torso, arms, shoulders, neck and head.

While doing this exercise, take a deep breath in through your nostrils, hold your breath while tensing each of the muscles and then exhale through your mouth when you let go of the tension. This should help you let go of stress and tension in your body, and improve your concentration and focus after the exercise.

  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing

A type of yogic breathing, this exercise helps to bring balance to your body by uniting both the right and left sides of the brain.

Start by sitting in a meditative position, for example, cross-legged with a straight spine, and use your right thumb to cover your right nostril. You can breathe in through your left nostril, hold the breath before covering your left nostril with your fourth finger and exhaling out with your right nostril. Repeat on the other side by inhaling through the right nostril, holding it, covering the right nostril with the right thumb and then exhaling through the left nostril. Continue this breathing pattern for about 10 minutes. The exercise should help to focus and energise your body so that you can start working on your next written piece.

  1. Kapalabhati

Kapalabhati is an advanced type of yogic breathing, which consists of sharp exhales from your lower belly. It helps to refresh and warm up the body, sharpen the mind and get rid of any stale energy.

It begins with a long and slow inhale, followed by short and sharp exhales through your nose as you push the air out from your lower belly. You know you’re doing it right when you see your abdomen moving in and out, as it pumps the air out of your belly. The breathing can be intense and you may need some practise to get it right. Kapalabhati is usually done in sets of 50 to 100, but you can start with 10 counts and slowly build it up when you’re more comfortable.

Simply choose your preferred breathing exercise, keep practising them daily and see how your focus and creativity improves as you write.

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