Breathing Practices for Anxiety

I was asked a while back about pranayama (breathing exercises) for anxiety. Especially quick practices you can use during a mild panic attack or to calm jitters just before a performance.

I wanted to share my answer with you here today:
I'd suggest a few minutes of belly breathing through the nose with eyes closed and make sure that you take long slow complete breaths, but make your exhales twice as long as your inhales. For example... breathe in for 4 counts and exhale for 8 counts. Works wonders on the nervous system. Keep this going for anywhere from 2-5 minutes+ and it should relax your entire system quite effectively.
(This practice is also great for regular meditation practice.)

All About Belly Breathing:
Ultimately it's like filling and emptying a balloon over and over. Start by finding a comfortable seat of course - Eyes closed. Lengthen your spine from your seat through the top of your head.

Begin by exhaling completely. Then as you inhale focus on filling your torso with breath beginning all the way at the bottom - in the floor of your pelvis. Allow each piece of you to expand gradually as you slowly inhale... from that bottom piece up. As you fill upwards - expand in the lower belly, the navel region, the ribcage expanding outwards, the chest filling out and up... All this should happen on the one inhale, but don't force it. If you have trouble just breathe in and follow it best you can. The longer/more you do it - the easier it will get.

Then on your slow exhale - slowly empty your breath in reverse - empty the chest, the ribs, then the belly... all the way down to the pelvic floor which you can feel lift at the very end of the exhale. Just inhale and exhale this way. Watching your breath fill and empty over and over like waves on a beach rising and falling.

There should be no straining or trying too hard because you CAN injure yourself with breathing exercises. If you feel that you're struggling just return to normal breathing and observe it without controlling it.

If your concentration/focus wanders that's totally normal. You will generally find that it happens less the more you practice... but there will always be days when you're just not focused and that's okay too. When that happens just take a few normal breaths and begin again. Allow yourself to return to normal breathing for a bit before you completely stop. It's best for your nervous system.

1 comment:

Lisa @ just here. Just now. said...

Great tips. I used to have terrible panic attacks, and meditation has helped me so much. I would not have been able to get through college without it! Thanks for sharing.