Smiley faces

Must-Try: Breathing Exercises For Anxiety

Breathing is an inevitable process that occurs without much thought. It allows the lungs to absorb oxygen which then travels to feed body cells and organs. But, when you breathe improperly, you upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in your body causing anxiety, panic attacks, physical and emotional problems.

Do breathing exercises help anxiety? The feeling of not being able to catch your breath is a common symptom for people who experience panic attacks. When you feel like you can’t breathe; you get tension in your chest muscles, and the harder you try to inhale, the more difficult it becomes.

But, it doesn’t mean you’re not getting enough air. However, feeling like you can’t breathe is a scary and uncomfortable experience.

How Do You Breathe During an Anxiety Attack?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been told to take a deep breath every time you experience a panic attack. It’s good advice, but it may not have helped as it’s incomplete. Look at it this way: there are two types of breathing;

ü  chest/thoracic breathing

ü  abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing

When you get anxious, you breathe rapidly and shallowly using your chest. As this causes an  upset of the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, it results in:

·         Muscle tension

·         Dizziness

·         Heightened heart rates

·         And physical sensations.

After, you enter the panic attack phase.

Abdominal breathing, on the other hand, your breaths are even and deep.

Good breathing exercises for anxiety should help you recover from stress as soon as possible. Fortunately, with breathing exercises for anxiety, you should reserve your panic state.

What Kind Of Exercise is Good for Anxiety?

Various proven ways help you recover from panic attacks. Let’s look at several breathing techniques you can try at home to help you recover from anxiety.

1.   Yogic Breathing

Yoga is a wellness practice, which focuses on breathing variations. One type of yoga is pranayama, that involves several breathing variations that help with anxiety. They may include lengthened exhaling and other breathing techniques we’ll mention below.

2.   Stimulating Breath

Stimulating breath, also known as bellows breath, is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. During this exercise, your energy and alertness increases.

How do you do it?

a)      Take rapid breaths in and out through your nose while your mouth is closed and relaxed. Ensure your breaths in and out are equal in duration. You’ll notice noises as your breath.

b)      Try three in and out breaths in one second.

c)       If it’s your first time with this breathing exercise for your anxiety, don’t do it for more than 15 seconds.

Remember how your awareness becomes heightened after an exercise? Doing stimulating breath will leave you more invigorated as compared to how you feel after a workout.

3.   Lion’s Breathe

Lion’s breath involves forceful exhaling. To try it:

a)      Take a kneeling position and cross your legs as you let your bottom seat on your crossed legs. If the position is challenging to achieve, sit legs crossed.

b)      Stretch your arms and straighten your finger and let them rest on your knees.

c)       Breathe through your nose

d)      Breathe out through your mouth as you vocalize, “ha.”

e)      As you exhale, stick out your tongue and stretch it downwards as much as you can.

f)       While at it, focus on the tip of your nose or the middle of your forehead.

g)      Relax and inhale again.

h)      Repeat the process up to six cycles and change the crossing of your ankles after the third cycle.

4.   Breath Focus

Breath focus is one of the best breathing exercises for anxiety when you do it right. In a sitting or lying position:

a)      Analyze how you feel when you breathe in and out. Mentally examine your body and notice tension in your body you never felt before. Spend some minutes at this phase.

b)      Take a slow and deep breath through your nose. You’ll notice your upper body expanding.

c)       Exhale in whichever way you feel comfortable.

d)      Repeat the cycle as you concentrate on the movement of your belly.

e)      Find a word to vocalize on when you exhale. Good examples include safe and calm.

Start imagining your inhales as gentle waves brushing over your body. Assume your exhales are taking away negative energy and thoughts.

If your imagination gets distracted, get back on track by listening to your breath and safe words.

Carry this breathing technique for 20 minutes every day.

5.   Resonant Breathing

Another popular breathing exercise for anxiety is resonant/coherent breathing.

a)      Lie down with your eyes closed

b)      Breathe in gently through your nose for six seconds, ensuring you don’t take too much air.

c)       Slowly exhale for six seconds allowing your body to relax.

Do this for 10 minutes but use extra first minutes to achieve still and focus.

6.   4-7-8 technique

What is 4 7 8 breathing technique? 4-7-8 breathing technique is utterly simple with these numbers representing the seconds you take to breathe in, hold, and exhale. Ideally, you breathe in for four seconds and exhale twice as much.

You can be in any position while doing this breathing exercise for anxiety, but the best is when you sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the upper tissues of your teeth and ensure they remain there throughout the exercise.

a)      Close your mouth and inhale for four seconds.

b)      Mentally count seven seconds as you hold your breath.

c)       Open your lips and breath out, making a whoosh sound for 8 seconds. This completes one cycle.

d)      Repeat the cycle three times until you complete four cycles.

In this breathing technique, you inhale quietly and exhale loudly when your tongue is still on the upper ridge of your mouth. The time you take before you move to the nest cycle is not important, but you have to maintain the 4-7-8 routine.

Contrary to how tranquillizing drugs take effect in the first few minutes, then lose their effectiveness over time, 4-7-8 technique subtle when you first try it but gains its power the more you exercise it. Try the exercise twice a day for better results.

The only thing you’ll notice is lightheaded when you first try, but it shouldn’t be a concern as it will pass. Make this technique a part of your life and try and exercise it every time something upsetting happens. When you feel tension and or stress, try this technique to put you into sleep or drive you to relaxation mode.

7.   Breath Counting

Another anxiety breathing technique you can try is breath counting, commonly used in Zen practice.

In a comfortable position, ensure your spine is straight and your head slightly leaning forward. Gently take deep breaths and graduate to non-influenced breathing. It should be quiet and slow while the rhythm and depths vary.

As you exhale, count “one.”

Count “two” the second time you exhale and repeat until you count to five. Repeat the cycle, starting from one until you achieve ten minutes of this exercise. If you find yourself counting beyond five, your attention has wandered, and you need to get back on track.

8.   Abdomen Breathing

Abdomen breathing technique is where you use your abdomen for breathing, reducing the amount of work your body needs to undertake for it to breathe. It’s what children use. You also use this breathing technique when relaxed.

Lie on your bed or floor with pillows underneath your head and knees. If you choose to sit, ensure your shoulders, neck, head are relaxed, and your knees bent.

Place one hand below your ribcage and the other on your chest.

Inhale and exhale through your nose, noticing which hand moves. If you’re not relaxed, the hand on your chest will move furthest and the one below the ribcage furthest if you’re relaxed. For you to switch from breathing with your chest to your abdomen, practice thrice, or four times a day. You’ll feel tired during the first few days, but your diaphragm will relax after several times of practising.

9.   Guided Meditation

Guided meditation is a process of interrupting patterns that lead to stress. The practise takes place in a dark, quiet, and comfortable room where you listen to a recording that helps you relax your body and breathing. The process involves going through steps that allow you to visualize a calmer and less stressful environment, helping you gain control over things that lead to your anxiety and stress.

10.   Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit comfortable and lengthen your spine and let out your chest.

Place your left arm on your lap.

a)      Raise your right arm and stretch your pointer and middle finger and place them on your forehead, between your eyes.

b)      Close your eyes and inhale and exhale for a few seconds.

c)       Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and inhale through your left. Place the right index finger on the left nostril and close it. Now both nostrils are closed, and you’re holding your breath. Release your right thumb so that you exhale through it.

Repeat this practice but alternate which nostril to breathe in while the other exhales. Each cycle will take around 40 seconds. Repeat this for 10 minutes.

Wrapping up

With the above breathing exercises for anxiety, you should recover from anxiety or panic attacks. Try several and see which alleviate your panic symptoms. To stand a better chance of taking control of your emotions, try yoga. If you want to take things a step further, why not consider visiting our yoga retreat centre here in Costa Rica.