Are you constantly running low on energy, overwhelmed with thoughts? Do you often feel worried and anxious?
These simple yet powerful Yogic breathing techniques can help you cope better with stress, and get back to your calm and focused self.
Why controlling our breath can help us manage anxiety
Our breath is the primary interface between mind and body.
Think about it, the way we breathe changes automatically in response to stress. When we feel agitated, our breath becomes shallow, chest-focused and fast, while when we feel relaxed, we tend to breathe slowly and use our lungs completely, allowing our diaphragm to move freely.
By learning how to consciously control our breath, slowing it down and deepening it, we have the opportunity to communicate to our brain that we are safe and to positively alter our mood when we are facing our daily challenges.
Try these three simple techniques in the morning or before going to bed for 5-10 minutes of practice and use them any time you need to unwind and recharge your batteries.
1. Elongating the exhalation
Sit comfortably or lay on your back, and close your eyes if you wish. As you inhale, bring awareness to the flow of air entering your nostrils and filling your whole chest, all the way down the bottom of your lungs where your diaphragm is. On the exhalation, follow the reverse journey of the air leaving your lungs and exiting through your nose (or mouth if it helps in the beginning). As you keep on practicing, allow the breath out to become slower and lighter, taking as long as possible to fully empty your lungs, but making sure you are not forcing the action.
Elongating the out-breath is one of the most powerful and effective techniques to manage stress, as every time you exhale there is a natural slowing down of your heart rate and a whole body relaxation response kicks in, so the longer you make your out-breath, the stronger this calming effect is.
2. Coherent breathing (Sama Vrtti)
This is a widely researched form of breathing that involves taking long slow breaths, about five per minute, maintaining an even length during the inhalation and the exhalation.
Find a comfortable position, laying on your back or sitting. To begin with, inhale through your nose for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. After a while, see if you can breathe in and out for 5 seconds and ultimately for 6. Of course, the length can vary based on your current lungs capacity and experience, so feel free to adapt it to a point that feels relatively comfortable, it shouldn’t generate more stress!
You can also place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest: with this tactile feedback it can be easier to allow the lowest part of the ribcage to move freely instead of trapping the breath in the upper chest.
3. Box breathing
If you feel overwhelmed with thoughts, this is a good technique to focus your mind and reduce the level of stress hormones in your body.
This is how it works:
- Breathe in for four seconds
- Suspend your breath for four seconds
- Breathe out for four seconds
- Suspend your breath for four seconds
As you breathe, you can trace a square of light with your imagination, this might help maintain concentration even more.
If any of these techniques don’t work for you at first, don’t force yourself, feel free to come back to your natural breath and try again in another moment. If in doubt consult an expert Yoga Therapist that can assist you in your relaxation process.
Please note that this article is in no way intended to replace medical advice or treatment for mental health issues. We advise you to talk to someone and seek help should you be experiencing mental health issues.
By Vanessa Michielon
Transformative Movement Method Founder, helping you improve your physical health and achieve a balanced state of mind with Yoga, Pilates and Dance.