Breathing Exercises for Anxiety - Find Instant Calm

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.

Reasons Why We Don't Breathe Correctly

  • The pressures that accompany our modern lifestyles mean we tend to be stressed and always rushing about. This creates shallow breathing.
  • Being tense or agitated also means we are quick to anger or get emotional, which further inhibits the quality of our breathing.
  • Our sedentary lifestyles don't encourage the deep breathing that comes with physical exertion, and so shallow breathing becomes a habit.
  • Feeling tired and drained of energy also means we are more likely to have shallow breathing.
  • Depression tends to create poor breathing habits.
  • Poor posture also inhibits our breathing (and our self esteem.)

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 -

Negative Effects of Poor Breathing Habits

  • Our body doesn't receive the optimum amount of oxygen it needs to function at its best.
  • Insufficient oxygen has a major effect on the brain, and so mentally we may feel tired and sluggish, unable to concentrate properly, and we may experience headaches.
  • The breathing process eliminates waste products from the body, so poor breathing can result in toxic build-ups within our cells.
  • The levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide within our bloodstream need to be balanced in order for us to feel well, and this balance is upset by inadequate breathing.
  • Our blood vessels constrict, increasing our heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain can also make us feel nervous and shaky.
  • The life-force that is the source of our vitality enters the body through our breath. Restricted breathing inhibits our intake of this chi or prana, and we deprive ourselves of our full potential.
  • Over time, our lungs may start to lose some of their function from not being used effectively.

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.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

  • They provide instant calm, thereby helping people deal with stress and anxiety.
  • Your mind chatter will slow down as the mind begins to quieten.
  • You will begin to feel more at peace.
  • Your mood will begin to improve and you will feel more positive.
  • Your energy and vitality increases as you take in more chi/prana.
  • You prevent stress from accumulating to unhealthy levels.
  • You will improve your memory and ability to concentrate.
  • Being more relaxed will improve your sleep quality and help with insomnia.
  • You will create a greater connection between your mind and body, allowing you to "get out of your head."
  • Our breath is our connection to our Source, our inner being and the Universe. When you align yourself with the power of your true self and your Source energy, you really begin to come alive.

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.

Abdominal Breathing Exercise

breathing exercises for anxiety

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.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

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 Exercise for Anxiety

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:

  • A greater awareness of the breath, leading to a peaceful and relaxed state.
  • Improved oxygen intake and increased oxygen levels in the blood.
  • The cells of the body receive an oxygen boost, improving energy levels and the ability to concentrate.
  • We become more in tune with our inner being and our connection to the Universe.
  • The entire body functions more efficiently when it is properly oxygenated.

How to perform Circle Breathing:

  1. Sit with your back nice and comfortably straight, or stand if prefer. Allow your shoulders to relax.
  2. Inhale gently through the nose for a slow count of 4. Feel the breath gently fill your lungs, from the bottom to the top.
  3. Without holding your breath, begin to exhale gently through your nose for a slow count of 4. Expel all of the air from your lungs, from the top to the bottom. Be gentle, don't force it.
  4. As you exhale, feel all of the tension flowing out of your body and melting into the chair or into the floor through your feet.
  5. Inhale through the nose once again to a gentle count of 4.
  6. Don't hold your breath at any point. There should only be a very small, natural pause between inhaling and exhaling, and inhaling again.
  7. Continue this natural, gentle flow of breathing to a count of 4, ensuring that the in breath and the out breath are of equal length.
  8. As you become more efficient at this technique, you can make your counting a little slower and the breaths a little longer. Remember to focus on filling and emptying your lungs with each breath, while keeping the shoulders down and relaxed.
deep breathing exercises

Do Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Really Work?

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.

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