Stress and tension held in your body for a prolonged period of time can have an adverse affect on your overall physical as well as mental state of wellness. One way to easily bring a sense of peace and calm to your mind and body (lowering your blood pressure and heart rate as well as improve your digestion to name a couple)is to learn and practice controlled breathing techniques.
There are several breathing exercises you can do but belly breathing is a good one to start with. I was first introduced to belly breathing when I began Tai Chi and yoga classes recently.
To begin, you want to be sure you are seated in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your belly, just below your rib cage and the other one on your chest. Taking a deep breathe through your nose your belly should push out. If done correctly your chest will not move. You want to now breathe through your lips as if you were whistling. You will feel the hand on your belly go in and then use it to push all the air out. Try this 3-10 times...don't rush the process...take your time with every breath.
Once you have become comfortable doing belly breathing you might try a more advanced exercise such as the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This exercise uses the belly breathing to help you really relax. 4-7-8 breathing can be done either lying or in a seated position. Begin as you did with the belly breathing with the one hand on the belly and the other on the chest. Take in a deep breath from the belly and breathe in at the silent count of four..hold this for the silent count of 7. Next breathe out to the silent count of eight trying to push out all the air from the lungs during the process. As you repeat this step you should feel a calmness come over you.
Another good breathing exercise to incorporate into your daily routine is morning breathing. Morning breathing helps to relieve the stiffness of your muscles and joints that settles in overnight or can help unclog stuffy nasal passages. Slowly bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, allowing your arms to just hang down towards the floor. Inhale deeply as you slowly roll back to a standing position, with the head lifting last. Hold the breath while in the standing position for a few seconds. Exhale as you slowly return to the starting bending at the waist position. This breathing exercise can also be used throughout the day to relieve low back tension that can build during the day.
Remember your goal is to achieve the correct ratio of CO2/O2 in the body to maintain a state of balance of mind and body with every breath you take.