7 Breathing Techniques To Help Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety – it can feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, and it always strikes at the worst times. We often experience anxiety as a reaction to stressful situations, whether it’s an upcoming presentation at work or leading up to a difficult conversation with a loved one. Some of us experience it rarely, but for others, it’s more common. While you should always talk to your doctor for help with acute anxiety, you can also reduce your stress through your breathing.
As yogis, we know the power of breath and mindfulness, but can breathing reduce anxiety effectively? Yes! It’s one of the most amazing tools, since we can do breathing exercises anytime, anywhere. Take a few deep breaths, because everything’s going to be okay – here are some of the best breathing techniques to help reduce anxiety.
1. Belly breathing
Get comfortable – it’s time to try belly breathing. It’s one of the best breathing techniques to help reduce anxiety and is often done lying down. Is deep breathing good for anxiety? Definitely, which is why we love how belly breathing can help you breathe with purpose.
Lie on your back or sit cross-legged, with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, under your ribs. Try to let your belly relax, then slowly inhale through your nose and feel your stomach rise. Next, slowly exhale through your lips.
Try this for a few minutes at a time, working up to longer durations. It focuses you to be present and can help calm down a racing mind, so it’s worth a try!
4-7-8 breathing sounds like something you’d need a calculator for, but it’s simple, we promise. Advocates of this technique swear it helps them fall asleep easier and combats stressful situations. Essentially, it involves repeating a set breathing pattern: breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold for a count of seven seconds, then exhale with force for a count of eight seconds.
To make it easier, you can find breathing apps for your phone that will gently walk you through each step.
3. Alternate nostril breathing
When you can feel stress building up and you just know anxiety is ready to rear its ugly head, you might want to fit in a few minutes of gentle yoga, or make time for some yin once you get home. However, another technique that might help is called alternate nostril breathing. It’s actually a yoga technique known in Sanskrit as nadi shodhana pranayama, which can be translated to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”.
Try it out by exhaling completely, then breathing in while using your hand to cover/close one nostril. Exhale, and then switch sides. Alternate between both nostrils for around five minutes – it can help you feel much more zen.
Mindful breathing for anxiety is incredibly powerful, and it can help you feel more connected to your mind and body. It’s one of the simplest ways to slow down your breathing when you’re feeling mega stressed. It’s all about observing your breath, focusing only on the inhale and exhale, while pushing any distractions out of your mind.
We know practicing mindfulness can sometimes be hard! It does take practice, but over time, you’ll be able to reach a calm, meditative state that you can sustain.
5. Lion's Breath (Simha Pranayama)
Need to release some tension and just let it all out? If anxiety is driving you to the edge, it’s okay to release your anger with an awesome technique called Lion’s Breath, another yogic breathing technique. Many yogis use it to add energy to their practice, but it’s also great for anxiety.
Sitting on your heels, lean forward and put your hands on your knees. Next, stick out your tongue, open your mouth, and exhale with power while you roar like a lion! Yes, it might sound silly (and it’s definitely something to try when you’re home alone), but it can feel amazing and powerful.
6. Count your breaths
Some people find that the simple act of counting your breaths can help you feel more relaxed and in control. Try just counting one as you inhale, two as you exhale, and upwards from there.
The meditative act of counting can help clear your mind of whatever’s bothering you, focusing and reenergizing you.
If you’re about to make a difficult phone call at the office and are feeling upset or nervous, try breathing and counting up to ten before doing anything – it might help you feel more centered before tackling a challenging task.
7. Resonance breathing
Resonance breathing, also known as coherent breathing, is another effective technique to try out. It involves long, slow breaths that clear your mind. You can also easily incorporate it into your meditation practices, although you’re likely already doing something similar, even if you don’t realize it!
Many people like to lie down and close their eyes when resonance breathing, then slowly inhale and exhale for six seconds each. Continue for around ten minutes. Yogis might want to try this in the savasana pose, lying on your mat in a room with dim lights. If you have time, you can also help prepare your body for relaxation with candles or essential oils.
With so many options, which breathing technique is best for anxiety? It all comes down to you! Most yogis will relate better to some techniques over others, so the best thing to do is try a few strategies until you find one that works best for you. Dealing with anxiety can be a massive headache – sometimes literally. So why not try experimenting with these breathing suggestions? It only takes a few minutes of deep breathing to help you feel more calm, cool, and collected, bringing back your inner zen.