When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.
~Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
We all experience anxiety from time to time: fleeting moments of “nerves” before speaking, job interviews, trips to the dentist, or new social situations are common examples of anxiety provoking experiences. But this kind of anxiety is more apprehension than anything else. We know the cause, and the anxiety we feel is specific to that cause. That kind of anxiety is not a problem.
When anxiety spills outside a specific area and overflows into our life in general; affecting our sleep, and making us feel jittery, fatigued, and afraid, that's when we need to take action and find out how to tame and contain anxiety.
Here's how yoga breathing exercises can help you control anxiety: when you control and steady your breath you have a direct impact on your heart rate. As your breath slows down and clams down, so does your heart, and your mind and thoughts.
Yoga breathing exercises work in a similar way to meditation in calming and clearing your mind and bringing a feeling of relaxation to your entire body.
You can use breathing exercises to:
- stop adrenaline coursing through your veins
- help with dizziness
- slow your racing heart
- clear your head and bring rational thinking back online
With your own breath, you can learn to calm the symptoms of a panic attack and regain a sense of control.
Developing Awareness of Your Breath
When we are anxious, or stressed we usually take very shallow breaths, as if we are breathing from our shoulders. But healthy, relaxed breathing, uses the diaphragm - not the shoulders!
A relaxed breath is deep and slow, the chest expands and the diaphragm draws incoming air down into the lungs, filling them completely.
Here’s a very simple way you can start developing awareness of your breath so that you can check in on what it’s doing. Sit down and put your right hand over your stomach and your left hand in the middle of your chest. Close your eyes and pay attention to what your hands tell you about your breath. Don’t try and change anything - just breath normally and notice.
- Notice the rise and fall of your chest, the rate of your breath, and how deeply it enters your lungs.
- Sit with your breath for a couple of minutes, if you can manage five minutes, that’s even better. Just sit and notice.
Awareness is the first part of positive change. By regularly checking in on your breath you will develop an awareness that helps you notice and adjust your breathing anytime you feel stressed or anxious.
For yoga breathing exercises you can use to calm anxiety please see the following:
Podcast: How to use yoga breathing exercises to feel calm
MP3 downloads to help you calm stress and anxiety:
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