Breathing exercises are one of the easiest and best ways to calm anxiety, decrease stress, and improve sleep. My own issues with stress and sleep is what led me on an over 20-year quest to learn the easiest ways to reduce anxiety. Our breath is always with us and yet, when we get anxious, we are more likely to hold our breath or breathe rapidly and shallowly. (How many times have you been stressed and thought “I can’t catch my breath?”
I am constantly teaching my clients simple breathing techniques and reminding them to use them on a daily basis. If we just wait until we are about to go into a panic attack, chances are we will completely forget that we can do a breathing exercise AND they probably won’t be as effective.
The 5 Breathing Exercises For Anxiety
Like all of these breathing techniques, you will be amazed at how simple AND effective this is! Either draw a square on a piece of paper or trace one on your leg or table or desk. Start with your finger in the upper left-hand corner. As you trace your finger to the right, breathe in to the count of 4. As you trace your finger down the outside of the square, hold your breath to the count of 4. As you trace your finger across the bottom to the left, exhale to the count of 4. As you trace your finger up the left side of the square, hold your breath to the count of 4. Repeat a few times until you feel calm.
One of the reasons this breathing technique is so effective is that it is a total pattern interrupt! For our entire lives, we have had the pattern of breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out. When we add in the hold your breath, it is like sending a message to your parasympathetic nervous system to slow down and send the happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins coursing through our body!
3 Part Breath
I learned many simple breathing exercises from my favorite yoga teacher and mentor – this is one of my favorites! I’ve added a little more to it and find it to be so excellent in helping to reduce stress and calm anxiety.
Imagine a beautiful pool of healing energy at your feet and notice what color it is. You are going to imagine breathing that colored energy up through the base of your feet, 1/3 of a breath at a time. Breathe 1/3 of a breath up to your knees, and pause. Then breath another 1/3 of a breath up to your stomach, and pause. Breathe the final 1/3 of a breath up to the top of your head, and hold for a moment. Now exhale any stress or tension you may have been feeling. Repeat at least 3 times or more and notice how this simple breathing exercise helps you feel calmer!
What color did you imagine? The colors all carry a specific healing energy to them. According to Inna Segal in her book “The Secret Language of Your Body”, “Pink is the color of unconditional love” and “Blue creates a sense of tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind by soothing the mind”. Many times my clients flinch when their color is black, but according to Segal, “Black is a color or protection, strength, and retreat”. I always tell my clients to trust that their Higher Self knows exactly which color will be most healing for them!
“Count Your Breath” Breathing Exercise
This is one of my favorite breathing techniques to help me fall asleep! As you inhale, think 1, exhale 2, inhale 3, exhale 4, inhale 5, exhale 7, inhale 8, exhale 7, inhale 6, exhale 5, inhale 4, exhale 3, inhale 2, exhale 1, inhale 2, exhale 3, inhale 4, etc. The beauty of this is you WILL find yourself at 12 or 17 or whatever. When this happens, rather than getting upset, simply start back at inhale, 1, exhale 2 and so on. It really helps keep your conscious mind from running off to the “what if, what if…” that many of us experience in the middle of the night!
Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise
This is another of the many breathing exercises I have learned as a yoga teacher. This is a beautiful breath technique that balances both sides of the brain. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system known for “rest and digest” as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system known for “fight or flight” (when we are feeling anxious and stressed).
Sit comfortably and bend your second, middle and pinky fingers in while keeping your thumb and ring finger extended. Begin by gently pressing your thumb to your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Then press your ring finger to your left nostril and exhale through the right. Keeping your ring finger there, inhale through your right nostril and then press your thumb to the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This is one full cycle. Repeat as many times as you want until you feel a beautiful sense of calm It may feel a little awkward at first, but with practice is may become one of your favorite breathing exercises!
Breath techniques are just one part of how I help my clients to get rid of anxiety. For more simple ways to calm anxiety, get my free guide- 5 Easy Ways To Calm Anxiety.
Originally published at stephaniedalfonzo.com