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Is the Way You Breathe Making You Anxious?

Breathing: stress vs relaxation

The way we breathe can set off a cascade of physical changes in the body that promote either stress or relaxation.

Breathing impacts the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) branches of our nervous system, and certain techniques can promote more parasympathetic calm and relaxation. Some may also cause us to release hormones like prolactin and possibly oxytocin, the feel-good hormone of love and bonding.

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Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”

How it’s done:  Inhale for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Once you manage it, you can go up to a c...

Abdominal Breathing Technique
How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: 6 to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure.

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.

Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize.

The Importance Of Breathing Techniques
The Importance Of Breathing Techniques
  • Many different civilizations have practiced different breathing techniques as a part of their culture and their lifestyles, such as Taoists and Hindus.
  • Proper breathing a...
The Special Power Of Breathing
  • The power of breathing is evident with people who have breathing disorders. As emotions affect our well-being, so does our breathing.
  • Our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are in control of producing feelings of calmness and the latter, the body's rapid involuntary response to stressful situations.
  • Many studies have confirmed the effects of breathing techniques against anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Although they do not disappear entirely, it helps alleviate their symptoms.
Cardiac Coherence
  • It is a popular technique that promotes relaxation by coordinating our breathing, slowly and steadily, with our heart rate, stabilizing the heartbeat.
  • There are many versions to cardiac coherence: 5-second inhale-exhale for a 5-minute repetition or 4-second inhale 6-second exhale cycle.
  • Cardiac coherence’s stabilization of the heartbeat can dampen anxiety powerfully.
Breathing exercises

Breathing is at the core of ancient (and currently trendy) mindfulness practices, from yoga and tai chi to meditation.

However, studies suggest that breathing exercises alone, derived from...

Deep, controlled breathing

It involves filling the lungs to the max and goes by various names like belly or diaphragmatic breathing.

It has been linked to improved cognitive performance, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Breathing and yoga
Belief in the benefits of controlled breathing goes back centuries.

Central to ancient Hindu philosophy was prana, described as vital “airs” or “energies” flowing through the body. Stemming from that belief, yoga was built on pranayama or breath retention.