Many individuals experience anxiety, which can have a significant impact on their lives. When feeling anxious, symptoms such as increased heart rate, shallow and rapid breathing, and heightened tension often arise. However, there are effective methods to alleviate anxiety, such as engaging in breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises are straightforward yet potent techniques that enable individuals to regulate their breathing and achieve a state of mental calmness. By directing attention to the breath, it becomes possible to slow down the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and alleviate muscle tension. Here are a few breathing exercises that can help relieve anxiety.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Also referred to as belly breathing or deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing involves inhaling deeply into the abdomen. This technique aids in slowing down the breathing process and activating the relaxation response.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a comfortable position by lying down on your back or sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Then, place one hand on your chest and place the other on your belly. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nostrils, noticing the expansion of your belly as you breathe in. Now, exhale through your mouth slowly while feeling your belly contract. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes, concentrating on your breath and the sensations in your body.
2. Box Breathing
Box breathing, also known as square breathing, involves following a pattern of inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding the breath again for four counts. This technique aids in regulating breathing and calming the mind.
To practice box breathing, assume a comfortable position with a straight back and your feet flat on the ground. Take a gradual breath in through your nostrils, ensuring a slow count to four. Hold your breath for four counts. Next, exhale through the mouth slowly for four counts. Before you inhale again, pause and hold your breath for a count of four. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes. Be sure to focus on your breath and the sensations in your body.
3. Coherent Breathing
The goal of coherent breathing is to slow down the breathing rate to five breaths per minute. This pattern of breathing helps lower heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a calmer nervous system.
Sit comfortably and inhale through your nose, expanding your belly for a count of five. Without pausing at the top of the inhale, immediately begin exhaling to a count of six. Repeat this sequence at least five times to complete a full-minute cycle. If inhaling or exhaling for this length of time is challenging, start with a three-count and gradually increase.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Also known as Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit, alternate nostril breathing involves inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time to balance the flow of energy. This technique helps quiet the mind and emotions.
To practice Nadi Shodhana, sit upright in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Bring your right hand in front of your face, placing your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows for stability. During the exercise, you will block either the left or right nostril using your thumb and ring finger. Close your eyes and block the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril for a count of four, take a brief pause, and exhale through the right nostril for a count of four. Perform this cycle for a minimum of five repetitions.
5. Victory Breath
Victory breath, also known as Ujjayi Breath, derives its name from the Sanskrit term and is often associated with the soothing sound resembling waves crashing against the shore, hence referred to as ocean breath.
To practice this technique, find a comfortable upright position with a straight spine and hands resting in your lap. Keep your mouth closed and begin by inhaling through your nose for a count of 4, gently constricting the airflow to the back of your throat during the inhale. After reaching the top of the inhale, pause for a second before exhaling. Constrict your throat slightly and exhale slowly to a count of 6. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 repetitions.
In conclusion, breathing exercises provide a simple yet effective means to manage anxiety. Through regular practice, you can develop the ability to regulate your breathing and cultivate a calm mind, ultimately promoting a sense of relaxation and ease. So, take a few moments each day to focus on your breath and embrace the numerous benefits of these powerful techniques.
If this article helped you, let us know in the comments below! Find more articles on breathwork and yoga here. You can also get these techniques and more from a GOQii Coach by subscribing for Personalised Health Coaching here.
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