Why are breathing exercises for anxiety so good for you?
"When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still........" (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)
Your breath is your life. Breathing not only supplies vital oxygen to the cells of the body, but the life force, also known as chi or prana, enters the body through the breath.
The way you breathe has a vast influence on the way you feel. A stressed or anxious person takes shallow, more rapid breaths and this has become the normal breathing pattern for the majority of society, even you if don't experience anxiety.
Breathing high into the chest and shoulders has become such an ingrained habit that most don't even realise that this is the totally incorrect way to breathe.
Unlike many other bodily functions, we are able to consciously control our breathing. And controlling our breath also helps us to control our mind, which in turn affects our body, and our life.
Practising breathing exercises for anxiety will help you to change your breathing habits and create more peace and calm in your everyday life.
Can you relate to any of these? Then you could certainly benefit from regular practice of deep breathing exercises for anxiety.
Unfortunately, the lungs of the average person contain a great deal of stale air. When our breathing is too shallow, we only inhale into our upper chest and use about one-third of our lung capacity, which leads to -
Regular practice of some deep breathing exercises will not only have instant affects upon your mind and body, but over time your poor breathing habits will begin to change, and the way you breathe throughout your day will improve.
Take a moment to check your breathing right now. Are you holding your shoulders high and tense, and breathing into your upper chest? There's a good chance that you are.
By learning to control your breath with breathing exercises for anxiety, you can instantly change the way you feel.
Many people who try deep breathing exercises without researching the correct way to perform them, just end up drawing more air into their upper chest without allowing their shoulders to relax. Deep breathing must draw air into the bottom of the lungs so that our diaphragm expands. Forget the old "chest out, tummy in" kind of breathing - it's totally wrong!
So let's get into some breathing exercises for anxiety, and have you feeling more relaxed.
When you deliberately breathe more deeply and slowly into your abdomen, your body's automatic response is to relax.
Please note that when doing deep breathing exercises, you should never force the breath, and stop if you feel dizzy.
So here are 7 easy steps to some deeply relaxing abdominal breathing:
1. Sit in a comfortable upright position with your back straight. A slumped back will prevent you from breathing into your abdomen. Close your eyes and allow your shoulders to drop and relax. Sit your hands comfortably in your lap or on your thighs.
2. Inhale slowly through the nose, drawing the breath deeply into the bottom of your lungs. As you do this, you should feel your abdomen gently push out naturally. Don't deliberately try and push the abdomen out or it won't be relaxing. If you can't notice your abdomen rising, you can place your hand just below your rib cage and you should notice your hand rise.
3. When you inhale in this way, your chest should only move slightly and your shoulders should not move. Abdominal breathing causes your diaphragm (the muscle at the bottom of the lung cavity) to move downward, and so the muscles around your abdominal cavity push out.
4. When you've taken a full but gentle breath in, hold it for a
second or two then begin to breath out gently through your mouth. Make sure that you empty your lungs as
much as possible without straining yourself. As you exhale, allow your
body to relax and let your arms and legs go limp. Feel all of the tension flow out of your body, and imagine it floating away.
5. Begin to inhale again, repeating this process about ten times. As you breath in and out, try to keep it gentle and relaxed, without trying too hard. Keep your shoulders loose and down, your jaw relaxed and allow your body to "let go". Just be sure to keep your back nice and comfortably straight. Anyway, it's hard to keep a tense body when you do abdominal breathing.
6. If you like, you can count slowly as you inhale and exhale. Try and get to a slow count of 4 on each in and out breath.
7. After a bit of practice, you can build up your abdominal breathing sessions to around 5 minutes each, once or twice a day.
Once again, with any deep breathing exercises if you feel dizzy at any time, just breath normally for 20-30 seconds before beginning again.
This breathing exercise for anxiety is easy to do and can be done just about anywhere. It has some fantastic benefits, and it will balance the energy between the right and left side of the brain.
Just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing, or paranayama as its also known, will leave you feeling more calm and clear-headed. It's my favourite of all deep breathing exercises.
Pranayama has so many benefits that I have dedicated a whole page to this particular breathing technique. Please click here to learn how to do pranayama.
Circle breathing is often used during meditation to help achieve a deeper meditative state, and yoga also incorporates this technique to enhance relaxation and focus. It is a mindful way to breath.
Some of the benefits of this particular breathing exercise are:
How to perform Circle Breathing:
You might have heard it all before - take 3 deep breaths to calm yourself down. Well, there's a reason for that, and that being - it actually does work!
As simplistic as it might seem, deep breathing exercises for anxiety really do soothe the nerves and induce a more calm and peaceful state, as well as providing the health benefits of proper oxygenation of the body.
And the great thing about breathing exercises is that you don't need any special equipment. You can also practice them anytime, anywhere.
Its a good idea to make breathing exercises a part of your everyday routine, not just reserved for moments of stress. That way, you are constantly helping yourself to relieve the pressures of everyday life before they begin to build.
Practising regular deep breathing exercises can also help to improve your overall breathing habits.