5 Breathing techniques for Anxiety & Depression.
Aug 30, 2018 | RUTH STEEL
There's been a lot going on in life at the moment and once again I have found valuable benefits from simply breathing & wanted to share these tips and easy techniques that you can use anywhere and take advantage of, when you need them most.
In my own experience, I have always been fascinated with breath. As a diver, trained singer & actress I have studied the voice, vocal chords, lung capacity & power of breath extensively. However, this didn't assist me when I found myself at the bottomless pit of Anxiety & Depression.
I will never forget the moment my Mother stopped breathing, my sister and I by her side, witnessing the utter stillness of death & the unequivocal proof that time, waits for no one.
To me, the most important thing in life, and essentially what life consists of, IS energy & breath.
Let me start by saying, I do not know not much at all. I am not here to tell you how to live your life or prescribe a magic Yoga pill that will magically fix all your pain. I am not a doctor or therapist. I am just a Yoga teacher with some background knowledge & a passion for bountiful breath.
I can only give you the tools, you and your breath are the most important factor for creating positive change.
For those suffering from severe depression, anxiety or stress, it is essential to consult with a licensed mental health practitioner for guidance and treatment suitable to your individual needs.
Are you ready to learn how to breath better?
Keep reading for five easy breathing techniques to start using now, in this moment.
'Pranayama' - Is a Sanskrit word used to describe the fourth, arguably most important, limb of Yoga. Pranayama is the conscious awareness of breath, the life force that both energizes and relaxes the mind & body.
Prana = life force
ayama = extension
So literally, in practicing Pranayama breathing techniques, we are extending our life & energy! Pretty powerful, right?
1. DEEP BELLY BREATHING
Most people do not breathe fully throughout the day and instead take shallow breaths into their chest. This type of breathing can be seen in those suffering from bronchitis and can actually increase anxiety & decrease energy.
✿ Sit in a chair with a cushion supporting a straight spine, roll the shoulders back & down.
✿ Inhale through the nose, letting the belly fill & stomach rise.
✿ Exhale out through the mouth with a big sigh, letting the lungs empty and belly lower.
✿ Repeat this for three of your deepest breaths then close the mouth & continue breathing into your belly for 5 - 10 minutes or as long as you've got to prioritize you.
2. UJJAYI BREATH or Victorious Breath
This type of breathing is the most commonly used in Yoga throughout Meditation & Asana. It has numerous benefits including, regulating blood pressure, calming the central nervous system, internally heating the body & increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood.
In my own daily practice, I use this breath when I am experiencing Anxiety, agitation & stress - in my car, whilst walking the dogs, at work, whilst running or engaging in other sport to improve respiratory efficiency. The possibilities are endless.
✿ Seal your lips and start to breath in and out through your nose.
✿ Take an inhalation through your nose that is slightly deeper than normal. Exhale slowly through your nose while constricting the muscles in the back of your throat.
Developing the Ujjayi sound...or as I like to say; "Be Loud, Be proud, with your breath."
✿ With your mouth open, try exhaling the sound “HAAAAH” this is similar to the sound you make when you’re trying to fog up a mirror.
✿ Close your mouth and attempt a similar sound, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the exhale, use the same method for the inhale breath, gently constricting the back of your throat as you breathe in & out.
When you are practicing correctly, the breath will sound like waves in the ocean or some people like to compare Ujjayi breathing to Darth Vader from Star Wars, if that's what works for you, excellent.
3. Four Part - BREATH RETENTION
Breath retention is a valuable tool for increasing our lung capacity, calming the body & mind & easing the symptoms of anxiety & stress. Practice this breath lying down when possible, lightly resting left hand over heart & right hand over navel.
✿ Take a big Inhale to start, then exhale fully to the end of the breath.
✿ Internally, count four seconds with a slow inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4 - noticing the right hand rise, followed by the left.
✿ Pause at the top for a count of two, whilst retaining the breath. 1, 2.
✿ Exhale slowly to a count of four, 1, 2, 3, 4 - allowing the left hand to fall, followed by the right.
✿ Pause again and retain the Exhaled breath for a count of two, 1, 2.
✿ Continue breathing in this way for as long as you need or challenge yourself for a count of six. Inhale for 4, Retain for 2, Exhale 4 counts, Retain 2.
4. 4-7-8 BREATHING
Also called the relaxing breath, this technique can act as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.
✿ Exhale completely through your mouth and around your tongue while making a whooshing sound. Try pursing your lips slightly, even if it seems unusual.
✿ Slowly close your mouth, inhale silently through your nose, to a mental count of four
✿ Then, mentally count to seven as you hold your breath
✿ Exhale to a count of eight while making an audible whooshing sound again.
✿ Continue breathing in this way for 4 - 6 rounds & be mindful to avoid overusing this breath. Should you experience dizziness, discontinue & let the breathing return to full belly breathing.
5. Nadi Shodhana or ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
Finally, we come to one of the trickier breathing exercises for anxiety & stress, albeit one that is hugely beneficial in helping us move from thoracic to diaphragmatic breathing, as well as regaining focus when anxiety sends your thoughts into overdrive.
✿ Using your relaxed right hand, rest the index & middle finger in between the eyebrows
✿ Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
✿ Breathe in through your left nostril.
✿ Put your ring & pinky fingers over your left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
✿ Alternate breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, blocking whichever nostril you’re not using.
✿ Continue this breath for 5 - 10 minutes or as long as feels comfortable.
For a video tutorial reference, check out the incredible 'Yoga with Adreiene.'
PRACTICE WITH ME ONLINE
Who doesn't love a Video Tutorial?
Over the next five days, I will be sharing the five Pranayama above on my IGTV account; @ruthsteelyoga