Top 10 Breathing Exercises To Help Reduce Anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, there is one thing we all know: it sucks. Our breath quickens and we feel like the world is closing in on us, you could say that it’s not the best feeling.
You can employ simple, grounding, no-equipment or medication necessary exercises like breathing! Breathing exercises, whether it be hand in hand with yoga or independently, can help greatly when it comes to an anxiety attack, but why is that?
How Breathing Exercises Help Anxiety
Do you hate when people tell you to “just breathe” when a full-blown anxiety attack hits? We don’t blame you! Something that is important to remember that we often say at Eva Carlston is that if you are not comfortable with a breathing exercise or breathing in general, it could cause more anxiety.
Notice what your breath is like normally, take a moment to listen to yourself and how your body acts when you inhale and exhale. It’s important to know your breathing and your body to successfully focus on a breathing technique when your anxiety hits. By focusing on deep, stretched out breathing, it sends signals to your brain by saying, “Hey! Guess what? We aren’t in danger and we are okay!” Focusing on something other than your intrusive anxiety thoughts can greatly help in calming your body and mind.
As Eva Carlston’s wonderful Art Director and resident yogi, Maggie Willis, says, “For anything to do with relaxation and breathing, it’s a way to get into the body. It’s a way to become present at the moment and what is actually going on around us.” By letting your brain know that you’re okay, your breathing will start to go back to normal and your heart rate will return to normal.
Breathing Exercises For Anxiety
Engage the back of the throat when practicing Ujjayi, and exhale an audible breath through the nose. Breathing through the nose is best because it activates awareness. Having an audible sound to listen to is easier to pay attention to and can energize and center you.
- Three-Part Breath:
This is a technique often taught at Eva Carlston Academy as it’s for new yoga connoisseurs. In this exercise, you’ll be engaging the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. You want to completely fill up your lungs with air, as though you were breathing into your belly, ribcage and upper chest. Remember to be present and feel each moving part. Then, release your breath and feel the flow reverse.
When doing Sitali, it’s important to curl your tongue into a ‘taco’ shape or pursed lips when exhaling. This helps direct the airflow into something purposeful and can give your breathing more direction. This technique specifically helps with anger or when you feel yourself start to heat up. It can also calm frustration you may be feeling.
The Tonglen breathing exercise is for when you are feeling angry, frustrated, or helpless. When breathing in, state something that you are feeling in the moment, “ I breathe in pain…” Then, when you exhale, say a peaceful and more relaxing word, “…and I breathe out relaxation.” Be sure to do 10 breaths.
- Balanced Breathing:
If you want a sense of balance in your life, this is the exercise for you! At Eva Carlston, we try our best to practice this exercise to bring in confidence in the environment. Sit tall and comfortably, and have your hands palm up either resting on your legs or somewhere that feels most natural to you. Then, close your left hand and visualize your breath going in one nostril. Then, open your left hand, and close your right hand while exhaling.
- Lion’s Breath:
To practice this easy breathing exercise that you can try every morning, kneel down, straighten your arms out, and place your hands on your knees. Inhale through your nose like normal, and then exhale strongly through your mouth, making a “ha” sound. As you exhale, open your mouth as wide as possible and stick your tongue out towards your chin. Inhale and return to your resting face. This may seem like a silly breathing exercise, but it can help calm you and bring in peace.
This is a very simple exercise that is often used in yoga. You’ll want to inhale at first and close your eyes, and then while you exhale, make a low to medium humming sound in the throat. Notice the sound waves hitting your tongue and your throat and imagine the sound calming your brain with its vibration. It’s as easy as that!
- Elephant Breathing:
If a breathing exercise has an animal’s name in front of it, it’s more fun (it’s definitely scientifically proven). First, stand with your feet wide apart and your arms dangling in front of your body, completely relaxed. As you breathe in deeply through your nose, raise your arms up above your head slowly as you inhale. Then go back to your first position that you start in as you exhale.
- Five Finger Breathing:
It’s exactly how it sounds! You’ll be using both of your hands for this, one to trace and one to look at. First, open one of your hands completely and then with the other hand, begin tracing your fingers. Start at the bottom of your thumb, go up and breathe in your nose, pause, and then go down the other side and breath out your mouth. Do this for all 5 fingers.
- Shoulder Roll Breath:
We’re down to our last breathing exercise! For this, you want to choose a comfortable sitting position. At first, you’ll take a slow deep breath in through your nose and raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, lowering your shoulders as you exhale. This will create balance and engage your body in a relaxed state.
Anxiety attacks aren’t fun, but breathing exercises are! The most important thing to remember is to visualize your breathing and practice. Practicing your breathing can make the difference between a successful breathing exercise and a failed one. Now go forth and breathe freely!
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