Breathing Exercises To Reduce Anxiety
Breathing meditations can be used to become more joyful, less fearful, and more balanced. Meditation also helps create more clarity and improve decision-making skills.
The next time you have a difficult decision, ask yourself the question and then meditate. The answer will come from a gut feeling, taking you beyond the thinking mind. Yogis call this dhi or buddhi, which means “knowingness.”
The breathing patterns taught on the following pages can be used beyond traditional meditation and applied for immediate stress relief. Meditating for 5–10 minutes each day is better than 45 minutes three times a week
SOFT BELLY BREATHING
Practice in bed in the morning or evening with your knees bent. If sitting in a chair, sit upright so you’re able to support your spine.
Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and fingertips below. Allow the belly to expand under your fingertips on the inhale and contract on the exhale.
Envision an ocean wave: The belly expands on the inhale – the wave rises; the navel contracts on the exhale – the wave returns to the ocean.
If you aren’t getting any movement, press your fingertips gently into your belly so you know it’s contracting on the exhale. Release the press on the inhale.
As the expansion and contraction become more natural, focus on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern, where the inhale and exhale are equal.
Soft belly breathing can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm.
NADI SHODHANA – ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
This breathing technique settles the mind and can be performed mentally if you’re suffering from sinus issues.
You’ll use the Vishnu Mudra hand placement for this exercise. Take your right hand and close your first and second fingers. Use the thumb and third finger on the flair of your nostril, gently.
Sit tall, rotate your thighs inward, and return to soft belly and rhythmic breathing. Inhale through both nostrils, gently close the right nostril, and exhale through the left. Inhale on the left, switch your finger placement, and exhale through the right. Repeat. Gradually allow the exhale to become longer than the inhale.
Release on an exhale through the left nostril. To continue, keep your eyes softened or closed. Begin to observe parallel paths of light in the midbrain. For the next three breaths, pause briefly at the top of the inhale, feeling more light or vibration. Exhale, release, and surrender three times. On the third time, imagine taking the light down the spine to the navel center to create a pool of light – your personal sun. Allow this personal sun to vibrate behind your navel.
To come back, as you inhale, think the sound “so.” As you exhale, think the sound “hum.” “So” means individual self, and “hum” means higher self. Allow the breath to deepen, bringing you back.