Using the Breath to Banish Anxiety

photo by Christian Joudrey

photo by Christian Joudrey

We are constantly looking for ways to banish anxiety and relieve stress, but often neglect the one tool that is right inside us, and that is our ability to breathe.

Taking Our Breathing for Granted

Breathing. We take it for granted, yet how many of us understand the depths of its healing abilities? Because respiration is a part of the autonomic system, we don't think about breathing. In and out comes naturally, and because of our lack of focus on this phenomenon, we accept inhalations and exhalations that are shallow and superficial... just enough to keep us alive.

Noticing

When we start to notice our breathing habits it becomes easier to understand how this relates to tension. Short breaths that don't take advantage of our lung capacity create an imbalance in our system, including some of the most important chemical reactions in our bodies, all of which affect our ability to stay calm. When we start to deepen our breathing, blood pressure lowers, adrenaline decreases, and pleasure-producing endorphins begin to release, offsetting and diminishing tension.

Overcoming Stress

Mindful, conscious breathing helps us overcome stress. As we take each breath deeper into the lungs we are able to control our stress levels in the now, rather than waiting for circumstances to change. By doing so, we also strengthen our own inner abilities for healing the body, mind, and spirit.

The Challenges of Conscious Breathing

Deep and conscious breathing can be intimidating at first. Many have a problem finding enough air to do so, and instead feel blocked and unable to complete even the simplest breath. Entering into rhythmic deep breathing takes time, patience, and practice. As you work through any challenges that may come up, you will find the great reward in being able to dilute anxiety, slow down your heart rate, ease your mind, calm your body, strengthen your immune system, deepen your sleep, and much more. And along with all of this, you will have mastered a tool that is yours forever to use.

Two Great Exercises

Here are two breathing exercises that are easy and extremely effective:

Sit or lay down and ask your body to relax... feel your shoulders, neck, arms, hands, legs, and feet releasing as you settle into a comfortable position.

Calm and Deep

Breathe in through your nose, counting a slow four. Feel the breath expanding your stomach and try to keep your chest quiet as you do. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a sound by pursing your lips. Take this exhale for as long as you can and then stay empty for a few counts before repeating.

Throat Breathing

This sounds strange, but here you breathe through the throat area, almost like you are a fish breathing through your gils! As you close your throat and start to inhale and exhale, you will hear your breath. Keep your lips closed and your jaw relaxed. Count a slow four to fill yourself deeply with air, hold for a few counts, and then exhale slowly until you are empty. Hold this sensation and then repeat.

For both exercises, try to repeat as many times as you can until you can feel your body and mind in a calm, poised state. Focus on the breath, which will help you to bypass and quiet the mind.

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