Breath work isn’t a cure-all for stress and anxiety. But research shows that deep breathing exercises can successfully relieve anxiety symptoms while boosting your mental and physical health. These exercises can stimulate your vagus nerve, which lowers your heart rate and helps you calm down in moments of panic. Below, we’re sharing a few breathing exercises you can do anywhere to ease your nerves and center yourself.
2-1 Breathing Technique
The 2-1 breathing method is simple. All you have to do is exhale for a duration that’s twice as long as each inhale.
When we breathe in, our bodies are preparing for activity, and our sympathetic nervous system becomes engaged. This causes an increase in heart rate and nerve activity, which contributes to the anxious feelings we get. When we exhale, our parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged, which promotes relaxation in the body. By doubling the length of time it takes for us to inhale on our exhales, we can soothe the body and put it into a more relaxed state.
Try breathing for two seconds, then exhaling out for four seconds for five times in a row. Notice how you’re feeling, then try doing it again.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
The alternate nostril breathing method is rooted in yoga. It can help calm the body, lower tension and revitalize the mind while increasing concentration, among other benefits.
To do this, start by gently closing your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale slowly through your left nostril, then use your ring finger to close it. Take a moment to pause before opening your finger and exhaling through your right nostril. Next, with the left nostril closed, inhale slowly through your right nostril. Repeat these steps five to ten times in a row.
This is another breathing technique that can put you in a calmer state of mind in minutes. Start by exhaling completely. Go ahead, make a whooshing sound, have fun with it! Next, breathe inward for a full four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds. Repeat the cycle three times.
You can read more about the 4-7-8 method for better sleep here.
As a general rule, try and focus on breathing into your belly. Expand your tummy as you inhale air. Think of it like filling up a balloon. Then, bring your belly button to your spine as you exhale to “deflate the balloon.”
This is another breathing exercise that’s often used in yoga. It’s called “lion’s breath” because it mimics the lion’s wide, tongue-hanging yawn. Here’s how to do it:
Sit in a comfortable seat. Place your palms on your knees. With your eyes open, inhale deeply through your nose. As you exhale, make “ha” sound to contract your throat muscles while letting your tongue hang from your mouth. Cross your eyes so they are focused on the tip of your nose. Repeat two to three times.
Need a quick breather during a busy day? Try taking a short “breathing break.” Stand up and inhale slowly while raising both hands over your head. Next, exhale slowly as you bring you hands down to your side. Repeat this three times. For best results, take daily breathing breaks.
In addition to practicing these breathing exercises, you may also benefit by simply being more aware of your breath throughout the day. Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible instead of your mouth. This has many benefits, including the fact that it filters and warms the air entering your body much better than your mouth can.
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