Breathing exercises have long been recommended as an effective method for reducing stress and anxiety. Practising slower, deeper breaths can help to slow your heart rate and mimic a state of relaxation - and is also recommended by the NHS as a way to help ease the symptoms brought on by coronavirus.
An increasing number of people are suffering from prolonged effects of Covid-19, with one in 10 people surveyed still experiencing symptoms after 12 weeks - or, in many cases, far longer. This is known as Long Covid, or Post-Covid Syndrome, and symptoms are wide-ranging and fluctuating - from breathlessness and chronic fatigue, to 'brain fog', anxiety and stress, according to the NHS.
For those experiencing breathlessness and anxiety - either independently or as one as result of the other - it can be upsetting and alarming. But, the NHS advises that relaxed and gentle breathing exercises can help to manage and stabilise long-term breathlessness.
Somatic movement coach and yoga teacher Nahid de Belgeonne, founder of The Human Method, has had several clients attending her monthly breathing classes who have been recovering from Covid-19.
"Breathing exercises can help to reduce shortness of breath, improve lung capacity and manage respiratory complications," she explains, "and can also reduce negative impacts on your mental health".
If you're experiencing symptoms of Long Covid, de Belgeonne recommends "one to one sessions rather than classes, as the effects of Long Covid can vary from person to person".
The NICE guidelines for Long Covid sufferers are to avoid graded exercise (any exercise that increases in intensity), which means that general fitness classes should be avoided until you are clear of all symptoms.
"The very, very first thing that I teach everyone is to slow your breathing down," de Belgeonne says. "There's a particular frequency of breathing that can trigger a relaxation response within both the brain and the body, and it's six breaths per minute."
In the exclusive video above, de Belgeonne runs through some gentle breathing exercises that you can try from home to help rapidly reduce stress and self-regulate your emotions.
If you feel your breathing is getting worse or you are experiencing breathlessness as a new feeling, it is important to seek medical advice.
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