Everyone has experienced anxiety in some way, shape or form. For some of us, it comes during times of high stress or fatigue, for others, it’s an ongoing emotion that increases or decreases in intensity throughout the day.
We all have different ways of coping with anxiety whether that be through a relaxing yoga class, a rigorous run or taking a walk around the block. But what most people don’t realize is that the safest and most effective remedy for anxiety is simply in controlling their breath through meditation.
In yoga, the formal practice of controlling the breath is referred to as Pranayama. Pranayama stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn, calms and soothes the mind.
As with any practice, pranayama can range from simple to complex and traditionally it is performed with an experienced teacher who knows your needs and capabilities. But there are a few simple techniques that we can all incorporate daily try to help relieve anxiety and stress.
Here are three easy to learn Pranayama exercises that will leave you feeling more relaxed, focused and even decrease your body temperature, and the best thing is, they can be done literally anywhere!
Box breathing, also known as square breath, is exceedingly simple to practice. Simply relax your body and do the following:
- Close your eyes. Take a few moments to notice the rhythm of your breath.
- When you’re ready to begin, breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath inside while slowly counting to four. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times or ideally, until you notice your body become calmer and more at ease.
The Long Exhale Breath
The Long exhale breath, also known as 1:2 ratio breath, essentially refers to an exhalation that is double the amount of time as your inhalation. To begin, find a comfortable place to sit or lie and do the following:
- Rest one hand on your abdomen and feel your belly expand with each inhale and relax with each exhale.
- Start to count the inhale and exhale. Make sure to not force the breath, simply let it come and go as it wants. Begin to make the inhale and exhale equal in length.
- Once the inhale and exhale are equal, start to slowly lengthen the exhale until you get to a 1:2 ratio (so if your inhale is 2 counts then the exhale will be 4 counts). Try to let the long exhale feel calming and relaxing.
- If you start to feel agitated or short of breath, simply return to equal inhales and exhales.
Cooling breath may indeed get you some funny looks, but when your heart is beating fast and you feel yourself beginning to overheat, it’s the perfect remedy. To begin, sit up tall and follow these steps:
- Begin to calmly breathe through your mouth for a few breaths.
- After an exhale, roll your tongue so that it makes a visible “O” or “U” but leave a small bit of your tongue sticking outside of your lips.
- Inhale through your mouth, as if you were sipping through a straw. Start to focus on the cold feeling on your tongue.
- When you are full, gently close your lips and exhale through your nostrils. Repeat until you feel calmer and cooler.