When life is stressful, slowing down the breath, especially the exhalation, can help bring renewed calm and a more relaxed state of body and mind.
Here's how ...
Sit on a chair, meditation cushion or yoga bolster, in a posture of comfort and dignity. You can also lie down on your back for this pranayama experience; support your head and neck, and your knees, so that you are resting very comfortably on your mat.
Take a few moments to settle in and settle down. Take some Wave Breaths: allow your abdomen, ribcage and collarbones to expand as you breathe in ... and let your collarbones, ribcage and abdomen recede as you breathe out. Take several of these Wave Breaths at an easy, leisurely pace that is natural for you.
Now, as you breathe in, notice the length of the inhalation - you might count "beats" in your head: "inhale - two - three."
As you breathe out, slow down the exhalation up to twice the length of your inhalation - you might count "beats" as follows: "exhale - two - three - four - five - six."
Don't strain, and do not hold the breath; this pranayama is meant to be comfortable and easeful. You should feel comfortable at all times.
Repeat this for several rounds, for 1-2 minutes. Then, return to your natural breath and notice how you feel.
The 1:2 breath ratio is designed to - quite literally - slow us down. It moves us from the sympathetic (stress) nervous system into the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system ... and it is very soothing and calming.