One of the best ways to dealing with stress and anxiety is through the breath. Deep breathing supplies oxygen and energy to your whole being, relaxing both mind and body.
Try this simple practice whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, tense or anxious:
- Lie down on the floor; if the situation does not allow, sit with your back straight; alternatively you may stand, relaxed, with feet slightly apart and knees slightly bent.
- Place your hands on your belly.
- Breathe in, through the nose, as deeply and as slowly as possible. Fill the diaphragm area.
- With your hands, feel your belly expand, remaining consciously aware of the air moving into your body.
- Keep breathing in, slowly, until you fill the chest.
- Finally, raise the clavicles to allow the maximum possible amount of air in.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds, allowing the lungs to absorb as much of the inhaled oxygen as possible.
- Exhale very slowly, emptying the lungs completely and expelling the maximum amount of carbon dioxide.
- Notice the vacant hollow in your belly as you prepare to breathe in the next breath.
- Continue with this process until you feel relaxed.
- Allow yourself to breathe normally as you return to present.
The full yogic breath relaxes the body by using oxygen to digest nutrients and release toxins accumulating in body tissues. It relaxes the mind because the added oxygen creates a general feeling of well-being.
The full yogic breath also releases emotions. Emotions accumulate in our cellular memory and sometimes get triggered by a repeated episode. This creates an exaggerated emotional response that could cause an over-reaction, the stuff we later regret saying or doing or that simply make matters worse. If we are quick enough to recognise it is happening and use the full yogic breath in these situations, we are able to allow the breath to dissipate the emotion while staying centred and aware. When we do not identify with the emotion, observe it, accept it, and breathe into it, it is released and we can continue in a situation maintaining a calm, conscious and centred state. The breath also contains the life-force energy – prana – which is the energy of consciousness.
Notice that you are not breathing or your breathing is very fast and shallow or erratic when you feel anxious, emotional or on the verge of a panic attack. Use this type of breathing several times a day to practice breathing correctly, moment by moment, as a form of prevention. When the natural movement of breath in your body becomes the same as practiced in the full yogic breath, you will experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of living.