Anxiety is the physical, mental and emotional reaction to stress. While troublesome, anxiety is a normal coping mechanism and can even be helpful as a motivational tool. However, there are times where anxiety gets the upper hand and disrupts daily life with sleep disturbances, fatigue and even illness. Yoga breathing exercises, Pranayama, help calm anxiety by slowing both breath and heart rate. Breathing exercises also function like meditation, drawing the focus to the breath and clearing our minds of racing thoughts.
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The Conscious Breath
The conscious breath is simply being aware of your own breathing. When people are anxious or stressed, they tend to take shallow breaths, breathing from their shoulders. Proper breathing involves expanding the lungs and diaphragm, without involving the shoulders. Sit in a comfortable position, and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Pay attention to your breathing rate, the rise and fall of your chest, and how the air feels in your lungs. Sit and focus on your breath for at least five minutes.
The Bumble Bee Breath
Bumble Bee Breathing is a good exercise for beginners because it is easy to tell when you are doing it correctly and the buzzing sound calms you like a mantra. Sit upright, in a comfortable position. Your shoulders should be relaxed and neutral and your chest open. Inhale slowly, from the abdomen, and fill your lungs to capacity. Pause for three seconds then exhale slowly, using your tongue to make a buzzing sound, like a bee. Repeat three to five times, pausing for three seconds between each inhale and exhale.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Sit in a comfortable, upright position. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with your right ring finger, remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale slowly through the right nostril. Then, inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat three times.