Many times when we are anxious, our breathing becomes shallow, causing a disruption in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels which can lead to worsened anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, increased heart rate, dizziness and other physical sensations. This happens because the blood is not being oxygenated properly and may signal a stress response that results in the worsening of anxiety symptoms. (Also read: 8 reasons why breathing is a superpower)
Breathwork helps in stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system that helps regulate your heartbeat, blood flow and digestion. It also helps in regulating flight or fight response and manage stressful situations more easily. To make breathwork work for you, it's important to find one that works and make time for it every day. The more you practice the more benefit you will gain.
Nicole Pond, Brain and Body Coach, is often seen talking about the importance of breathing exercises on her Instagram page. She shared 7 breathing exercises that can help you to calm your anxiety.
1. Lengthen your exhale
Before taking a big inhale, try a thorough exhale instead. Push out all the air in your lungs then simply let them fill up naturally. Try to make your exhale longer than your inhale and repeat for 5-10 minutes.
2. Belly breathing
Firstly, lay down somewhere comfortably. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in through your nose, noticing your stomach rise. Your chest should remain relatively still. Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth. Try engaging your stomach muscles to push air out at the end of the breath.
3. Breath focus
Notice how it feels when you inhale and exhale normally. Mentally scan your body if you are feeling any tension. Take a slow and deep breath through your nose and notice your belly and upper body expanding. Exhale, however, feels comfortable and pays attention to the rise and fall of the belly. Imagine your inhale washing over you like a gentle wave and imagine your exhale carrying negative and upsetting thoughts and energy away from you. When you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
4. Equal breathing
Shut your eyes and pay attention to the way you normally breathe for several breaths. Then, slowly count 1, 2, 3, and 4 as you inhale through your nose. Exhale for the same four-second count. As you inhale and exhale, be mindful of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.
5. Resonant breathing
Lie down and close your eyes and gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of six seconds. Don't fill your lungs too full of air, exhale for six seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently. Don't force it and continue for up to 10 minutes. Take a few additional minutes to be still and focus on how your body feels.
6. Lions breath
Sit cross-legged and bring your hands to your knees, stretching out your arms and your fingers and take a breath through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth, allowing yourself to vocalise “ha”. During exhale, open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue out, stretching it down toward your chin as far as it will go. Focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) or the end of your nose while exhaling. Relax your face as you inhale again and repeat the practice up to six times, changing the cross of your ankles when you reach the halfway point.
7. Alternate nostril
Use your right thumb to close the right-hand nostril and inhale slowly through the left. Pinch your nose closed between your right thumb and ring finger, holding your breath in for a moment. Use your right ring finger to close your left nostril and exhale through the right, waiting for a moment before you inhale again. Inhale slowly through the right nostril and pinch your nose closed again, pausing for a moment. Now, open the left side and exhale, waiting a moment before you inhale again and repeat this cycle of inhaling and exhaling through either nostril up to 10 times.