Ease tension throughout your whole body and put a smile on your face in less than 60 seconds.
Everyday stress can affect us both mentally and physically. When we feel overwhelmed, many people unknowingly hold tension in their face and jaw. Eventually, that tension spreads to other parts of the body, which can throw off your posture and cause pain. But here’s a simple solution: Breathe like you’re the king of the jungle.
The lion’s breath exercise not only helps you remember to breathe. It also stretches your face and jaw—and relieves tension throughout the body. “Breathing is vital to life and self-care,” says Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year. “Plus, lion’s breath gives you an opportunity to make some noise, get something off your chest, be a little goofy, and announce your presence.”
Check out the simple steps below, and then try it the next time you feel stressed or notice your jaw is clenched. It’s an instant reset for your nervous system.
Step #1: Inhale
Standing or sitting comfortably, inhale through your nose until you can’t take in any more air.
Step #2: Open Wide and Exhale
Open your mouth as wide as possible and exhale, sticking your tongue out and crossing your eyes as you make some noise like you’re a lion—or a fire-breathing dragon. It sounds silly, but the noise matters!
“It’s both awareness in the present moment and a little bit of commanding your own power,” Blair says. “Especially if you feel ignored, invisible, or depressed, making noise can be an anchor into your authenticity, power, and sense of humor.”
Do this three times total.
Step #3: Make It Your Own
Once you have the basic breathing technique down, add on anything you like, such as shaking your head or moving your arms. If you’re in a public space, taking a deep breath in and exhaling it out like a sigh will have the same effect (but isn’t as much fun).
Try it, and you’ll quickly see that it works—and puts a smile on your face. “It tricks your face into a different muscular pattern,” Blair says, “which tells your nervous system that all is well and it’s okay to let go of some tension.”
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