Breathing Exercises For Anxiety (Guaranteed To Work)
“Feelings come and go like clouds. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
A calm mind brings about tranquility. If you are like me, you are driven in life. And you want to be a winner. I have experienced bouts of intense anxiety in my life. To a point where I thought it may end me for good.
Thank goodness it hasn’t because I couldn’t be here writing this blog for you! But regardless of whether you have periodic anxiety or chronic anxiety, I believe this article can and WILL help you.
Whenever you are anxious, the key to realize is that you are holding your body in an anxious way.
I’m sure you have heard of power posing. When we put our hands on our hips. Or week puff our chest our more like we are a superhero.
We’ll these postures are simple yet powerful. They have an actually affect on heightening your testosterone levels. As well as lowering your cortisol levels. All in the matter of a couple minutes of statically holding one of these postures.
Now back to body posture for anxiety. When we are anxious, we are using our body in a way that is conducive to an anxious state of being.
So just promise me, that the next time you feel anxious, simply scan your body quickly. Notice, even right now, how your body may be in positions such as; shoulders elevated, clenched fists, tight jaw muscles and even widened eyes.
Become aware of each one, one at a time. And simply relax those parts of your body. This will ease the triggers that are causing tension in your body.
Our bodies are our unconscious mind. The mind will act out a state of chaos or a state of tranquility. Through your body.
So again, next time you are struck with a bout of anxiety, monitor your body. Start to relax those trigger points, then assume a power pose.
You will notice that your breathing starts getting less restricted. Your are taking longer and deep breathes. And you naturally find a better and more calm homeostasis.
Now this is general information for starting the process of breathing better for anxiety.
So if you aren’t in a place to where you can really get into a breathing exercise, you will have tools in your belt to at least get you by.
Now I present to you 7 of the most powerful breathing exercises for anxiety known to man.
Enjoy and let me know how they work out for you if/when you try them in the comments!
11 Powerful Breathing Exercises For Anxiety
1.) Belly Breathing For Beginners
First and foremost, belly breathing is the where it is at. You can literally stop a panic attack by integrating some belly breathing in your life.
It’s pretty awkward at first, as we are a world filled with chest breathers. But the fact of the matter is that when we are born, we were born belly breathing with perfection. It is in our DNA to breathe with our belly. And it happens to be the most healthy way you can breathe.
We are meant to use our chest muscles as secondary muscles and our stomach and diaphragm as the primary muscles for breathing.
In order to learn how to belly breathe, lye on your back.
Put one hand on your stomach, and the other one on your chest.
With each breathe, gently push up the hand on your stomach.
Make sure you are barely moving your hand on your chest, if at all up.
Repeat this exercise for 10 minutes and you should feel calm and less anxious.
BONUS TIP: If you want to go deeper with these exercise, place your thumb and index finer in a C shape. then place that around the sides of your stomach/oblique area. As you are doing your stomach/diaphragmic breathing, you want to not only push our your stomach, but also try to push out the C shapes you have made on both sides of your stomach.
Think of it as if you are breathing through your belly button. And the air goes into your stomach from your belly button and then expands your obliques our simultaneously.
Also, simply put a second or so pause in between inhaling and exhaling. I have found that this signals to my brain and respiratory system that we are engaging in all three stages or breathing. Breaking it up a bit to ad emphasis to the entire breathing process.
Some of the benefits of belly breathing include:
- Slow down your heartbeat
- Stabilize blood pressure.
- Relieves tension
- Aids in recovery
- Supports muscle growth
- Provides higher levels of energy.
- Increases blood supply and nutrients for recovery
- Increases oxygen to your entire body
2.) 4 7 8 Breathing Technique
Each number in our equation here represents how long, in seconds, you are gong to be doing something with your breathe.
Start with sitting up with your back straight. Place your tongue on the soft part of the roof of your mouth. Then as you are doing your exhales, breath out of your mouth with your tongue on the same spot of the roof of your mouth. Keep it there
The simple 4 step process to this powerful breathing technique for anxiety includes:
- Start with a complete exhalation, blowing the air in your lungs out of your mouth. Done properly, you will hear a “whoosh” sound.
- Then inhale through your nose, mentally counting to 4.
- Hold your breathe for a count of 7.
- Exhale through your mouth, again making the whoosh sound for a count of 8.
There is really no number on preferred repetitions on how many cycles you should be doing of 4, 7, 8 breathing. Simply rinse and repeat as many times a you need to, in order to find the calm and tranquility you are looking for in your body.
The more you do this technique, the better you will feel. Try doing so twice a day. And of course, when you are starting to feel anxious.
3.) Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is super powerful and works wonders for calming yourself down. Here is exactly how to do it. According to Chopra.com this breathing exercise for anxiety includes benefits such as: removing toxins, restoring lung balance in both hemispheres our our brains, nervous system rejuvenations and offers support to both our lungs and respiratory systems as a whole.
Here are the 7 steps to master the art of alternate nostril breathing:
- Sit on a comfortable service. Back straight.
- Feel your butt bones grounding into the seat.
- Create a long spine by lifting your skull slightly up towards the ceiling or sky.
- Use your right thumb to cover up the right nostril.
- Inhale slowly through your left nostril.
- Close your left nostril with your ring finger temporarily. So both your nostrils are now covered.
- Open it back up and exhale through the left nostril.
Repeat the same process on each side. Do so for 5 to 10 repetitions. Or until you feel less anxious.
4.) Sama Vritti Pranayama
This breathing technique for anxiety is extremely simple, here are the steps.
- Sit comfortably on something that is soft. Or start by lying down.
- Begin to notice the inhalation and exhalation process. Relax the tension in your breathing proces if you notice any.
- Inhale for a count of 5 steadily. Mentally counting it out.
- Exhale for a count of 5. Mentally counting it out.
- Do this process for 10 repetition.
There is truly power in simplicity. You don’t have to do 5 seconds per cycle, you can play around with it a bit. Maybe try 7 or even 10 seconds per inhalation and exhalation.
This is a really powerful exercise that allows us to steady out the breathing process. To add consistency to both cycles of the breath. So it becomes more of a subconscious habit that lets us breathe more evenly.
Some of the benefits of Sama Vritti Pranayama include:
- Improved lung capacity
- Retained prana within the body.
- Stimulation of the dull glands and organs.
- Lessens anxiety.
- Activates diaphragm.
- Awakens sluggish cells in the body.
- Betters the immune system.
This is also a phenomenal breathing exercise for stress that can also be used for mediation. If you are new to mediation or want some tips on how to get deeper into your mediation, check out the articles I wrote below just for you.
5.) Skull Shining Breath
I included this originally because of how cool the name was LOL no shame. And yet this another powerful breathing exercise for calmness.
Before we get into the steps of the process of skull shining breath, we need to note that this is going to be a rapid process of breathing. It is not a slow and controlled process.
Do so as rapid as you can for up to 30 breathes. Within 2 to 3 sets of 30 breathes, you will notice a calmness throughout your body.
To engage in skull shining breath, utilize the following guide:
- Sit upright on a chair or up against a wall.
- Contract your abdomen area as you breath outward, squeezing the oxygen out of your abdomen.
- Release the muscles you are squeezing with. Allowing the breathe to flow naturally.
- Take a deep breathe through your nose.
- Then again repeat the contraction of your abdomen as you breathe outward.
6.) Tony Robbins Style Kapalabhati kPranayama
To use this breathing exercise for panic attacks, you want to breathe in through your nose with force. While simultaneously pushing your arms up in a press motion, palms shooting up to the sky.
Then as you exhale with force, you want to bring your arms back towards your body in a forceful way also.
You want to do this in rapid succession of each rep. Do so for 3 sets of 30 repetitions. With 10 seconds in between each set. And with one repetition being one inhale and one exhale.
7.) Don’t Forget To Exhale
A simple tip to keep on your all times to keep anxiety at bay is to remember to exhale. I love this article by Huff Post that shares why it is so crucial to calming your body.
The posts shares about how shallow breathing is literally interfering with the flow of life force. And of course not allowing us to maximize our breathing potential with the diaphragm.
We are all really aware of our inhale. We think that is the only part of breathing that reallly matters to feeling oxygenated.
But if you can, become more aware of your exhale. Make sure you are blowing out all that air. Because as the article states, when we don’t fully exhale, we keep too much excess carbon dioxide in our lungs. Which this alone is known to be a nervous system stressor.
It feels as if there is too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen. This starts a vicious cycle of the system being signaled to bring more oxygen into the system. Which in turn, makes us breathe more. Creating shallow fast paced breathing patterns.
So when you start focusing more on exhaling, you are teaching your body to take yourself through the entire breathing cycle completely.
BONUS TIP: As you are exhaling, act like you are pulling your belly button towards your spinal column, straight back.
Pull it back softly and gently until you feel you have came to a full exhale.
8.) Box Breathing
This technique is also called four-square breathing. It is pretty much the most simple, not much thought, technique on our list here today.
To practice box breathing, simply do the following:
- Sit comfortably with your back upright.
- Inhale for a count of 4.
- Hold your breathe for a count of 4.
- Exhale for a count of 4.
9.) Lions Breath
Another cool sounding breathing technique! I mean who doesn’t want to be a lion! The leaders of the wild. Anyways! Let’s get into how to utilize lions breath to help reduce anxiety with the breath!
- Sit in a kneeling position with your butt cheeks resting on your feet/soles. (You can also do this sitting on a chair, by bringing your feet up to your butt underneat the chair)
- Place both hands on your knees with arms extended.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Exhale through the mouth while making the sound “haaa”. When you are exhaling, you want to widely open your mouth and stick out your tongue as far as you possibly can, towards your chin.
Ancient teachings encourage the one doing Lion’s Breath to bring your internal focus to your third eye which is located right in your foreheads center.
You can also bring your awareness to the tip of your nose during the exhalation process.
Within a matter of 5-10 cycles, you will feel much more calm.
10.) Sitali Breath
This breathing technique is usually implemented for cool down sessions after yoga practice.
To utilize this technique to reduce anxiety, follow the steps below:
- Sit in a position where your spine, neck and head are in alignment.
- Do a few sets of stomach/diaphragm breathing.
- Open your mouth into a “O” shape, then slightly stick your tongue out, curling it up in a straw like position. Sticking it out of your mouth about 3/4 of an inch.
- Inhale through your tongue, like you are using a straw.
- Focus on the cooling sensation of the breath on the tongue along with feeling the expansion of your abdomen and ribcage.
- Bring your tongue back into your mouth, close your mouth and exhale to completion through your nose.
11.) Coherant/Resonant Breathing
The resonant breathing technique is phenomenal for managing anxiety through breathing. It also helps you create better emotional balance, improve heart rate variability along with lower blood pressure and better pulmonary function.
To engage in resonant breathing, go through the following cycle:
- Inhale for a count of 4 seconds, exhale for a count of 6.
- Inhale for a count of 5 seconds, exhale for a count of 5.
- Inhale for a count of 5 seconds, exhale for a count of 6. (The point of true resonance)
- inhale for a count of 5 seconds, exhale for a count of 7 seconds.
12.) Cannon Breath
Cannon breath is another powerful form of breathing that helps with anxiety. It strengthens both strengthens and cleanses the parasympathetic along with aiding in better digestion.
To engage in the breathing technique, simply do the following:
- Sit in an upright position.
- Make an O shape with your lips, in a relaxed way.
- Blow out rapidly and heavily passed the cheek and tongue.
You want to essentially be blowing air out of your mouth in rapid fire succession. Like firing out of a cannon.
13.) Whistle Breath
To utilize this powerful breathing technique, you want to:
- Sit in an upright position.
- Simply pucker your lips on the inhale, and inhale through your mouth, making a whistle sound.
- Focus on the sound of the whistle as that will put you in the moment.
- Then exhale through the nose.
- Repeat the same process by exhaling through the mouth with pursed lips.
- Then inhale with your nostrils.
Done right, this exercise will stimulate the vagus nerve but utilizing the lips in the pursed fashion.
When activated, it brings calmness to the nervous system.
Quotes About Breathing
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
“Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life.” – Giovanni Papini
“Breathing is a bridge which connects life to consciousness which unites your body to your thoughts.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“Learn how to exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.” – Carl Melucci Ardito
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey
“Inhale the future, exhale the past.” – Unknown
“When the breath is unsteady, all is unsteady. When the breath is alive, all is alive. Control the breath carefully. Inhalation gives strength and a controlled boy, retention gives steadiness of mind and longevity, exhalation purifies body and spirit.” – Goraksasathakam
“Only those who know how to breathe will survive.” – Terri Guillemets
“Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation.” – Dan Brule
“Your breath is your anchor.” – Unknown
“Whenever you are feeling down, just breathe. Everything will work its way out in the end.” – Johnny Lung
“Deep breathing brings deep thinking, shallow breathing brings shallow thinking.” – Elsie Lincoln Benedict
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moement. I know this is the only moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“When you inhale take your strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” – BKS Inyengar
“To mediate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment, so that you don’t miss your appointment with life.” – Nhat Hanh
Conclusion to Breathing For Anxiety
At the end of the day, all of these breathing exercises for anxiety and depression are really making one utilize their diaphragm. This is the most powerful muscle one can use to draw in deep, nourishing and healing breathes.
When we utilize our diaphragm, we are breathing the way we were born to breathe. You will notice calmness in your body when you do these techniques. With deep breath comes a feeling of naturalness and lightness.
You will also be able to quiet your mind more, which can be just as equally powerful. As a calm mind brings about a calm body.
I hope you enjoyed the article.
I would love to hear what your favorite breathing technique for stress was in the comments!