Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting nearly 20 percent…
It’s true that working out is always a good idea for reducing stress, but yoga seems more well-equipped to tackle the beast of anxiety than many other exercise regimens. After all, one of the core components of the practice is yoga breathing exercises, and breathing exercises for anxiety, also known as pranayama breathing. Science has proven time and time again that deep breathing is a reliable way to quickly calm the nervous system, and yoga combines that power with mindfulness for better physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Yoga is also all about listening to your body and finding exactly what works for you. Pranayama breathing involves different breathing techniques, each with different benefits. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular breathing exercises for you. You might find a favorite that always centers and calms you, or you might find that each serves a unique but important purpose, and add all of these to your practice!
Deep Belly Breathing
Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, emphasizes awareness of the diaphragm, which helps maximize lung expansion and moves air deep into your stomach.
To do deep belly breathing, begin either laying down or in a seated position. Place one hand on your ribcage, so that you can feel your diaphragm move as you take each deep breath, and one hand on your chest. Breathe in slowly for a count of five seconds, feeling your stomach expand as you do. Hold for a moment, then begin to breathe out for the same count.
This breathing is a great calming exercise, as it can slow the heartbeat and stabilize blood pressure.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Often used in meditation practice, alternate nostril breathing can take a bit more concentration, but the results are hard to deny.
Begin in a seated position with your legs crossed. Make sure you are breathing comfortably, then begin. After an exhale, take your thumb and forefinger and place them on either side of your nose, resting on the outside of your nostrils. Place your finger over your right nostril, so that you are inhaling only through the left side of your nose, and count to five as you inhale. Then, cover your left nostril and let go of the right nostril, so that you are only exhaling through the right, and breathe out through your nose as you count to five again.
Keeping your finger on your left nostril, breathe in through the right while counting to five. Let go of your left and cover the right, and exhale for a count of five. Repeat this pattern for a few minutes.
Alternate nostril breathing is best if you’re looking for something to stabilize the nervous system and handle stress.
Another form of pranayama breathing, the lion’s breath is named for the pose you make when doing it: resembling the posture of a sitting lion. It is great for clearing throat chakras, and for bringing energy into physical practice.
First, get into a seated position (most commonly, a lion’s pose is used). Then, place your hands either on your knees or on the floor. If they are on the floor, spread your fingertips. Lean forward slightly with your upper body, then inhale through your nose. On the exhale, open your mouth and stick your tongue out, forcefully pushing the air out. This is accompanied by a “ha” sound (or a roar, as some call it!), and you should feel the breath come up and pass over your whole tongue. Complete four to six breaths, with a few normal breaths between each, and cross your feet halfway through if you’re in lions or a cross-legged pose.
Make sure to rest and breathe normally for at least three minutes after.
Practicing Yoga at The Yoga Connection
No matter what breathing exercises you prefer for your anxiety, The Yoga Connection offers a class designed for you to make the most of every breath.
We offer yoga therapy and yoga classes in Smithfield, North Carolina for people at a variety of levels. Whether you’re a beginner or have practiced before, we have a class for you. Note that our yoga therapy classes are private sessions that are tailored to your individual needs.
Call us today at 919-971-1431 or reach out to us online to learn more about the classes we offer.
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