Jul 9, 2016

Calm Your Anxiety with Breathing Exercises

When we have stress, anxiety, and worries, we don’t breathe normally.  Shallow breathing could cause a panic attack for some people.  Keeping breathing under control not only calms our anxiety, but also transforms our life.    

There are many breathing exercises available.  I came across the book called Healing Power of the Breath.  It explains various breathing techniques and their benefits in different conditions or situations from trauma to relationships.  It emphasizes that breath is a “portal to the mind-body system.”  
Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior. 
The exercises are very simple.  I found it more helpful to listen to the audio and follow the guiding cues to do the exercises.  

I will introduce 3 basic techniques.

1. Coherent Breathing
A rate of 5 breaths per minute- 5 bpm (inhaling for 6 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds). 
Purpose: To increase Heart Rate Variability (HRV) by changing the pattern of breathing.  The higher HRV, the more flexible cardiovascular system and more resilient stress-response system.

If you were to learn one breathing technique, choose Coherent Breathing.  It helps relieve stress, tension, anxiety, worry, phobias, insomnia, and respiratory problems. 

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. 
  • Close your eyes and mouth, and breathe through your nose. 
  • Breathing should be very slow, gentle and comfortable, not forced.
  • Play the practice. (If 5 bpm is too slow, play the beginning of this practice at 6 bpm.)

2. Resistance Breathing
Any kind of breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air (by pursing the lips, hissing, tightening the throat and etc.)

Purpose: To stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system by the increased pressure in the lungs, inducing relaxation. (Like cats purr!)

3. Breath Moving
With imagination, moving breath and awareness to different parts of the body
Purpose: To improve the circulation of energy through the nervous system and improve blood flow. (In Easter traditions, to open chakras and dissolve blockages so energy can circulate more freely.)

I personally like Breath Moving because I am a visual person.  When I am lying down, I can easily picture the breath as waves coming in and going out.

Total Breath
The combination of Coherent Breathing, Resistance Breathing, and Breath Moving.
Purpose: To maximize effectiveness and rapidity of response.
The book recommends you practice once a day for at least 20 minutes with full concentration. 
Body Scan
After breathing practices, finish with Body Scan to allow your system to consolidate the effects.  You can choose any other form of relaxation (meditation, visualization, deep prayer, and etc.).  It helped me calm down better because following the practices makes me more alert than relaxing.   

If you would like to know other healing breath practices including vibration breathing, and also make these great breathing practices your routine, download the audio files here to your device.  The book has much more information, and includes a helpful chart “How and When to Use Each Practice” in the appendix.

Hope these breathing practices transform your life!
These audio files are for your own personal use only.