We all know the familiar feeling of anxiety too well. Not only does it take an emotional and mental toll, but it’s also felt in the body, leading to tight muscles, headaches, an upset stomach, and insomnia. Thankfully, there are practices like pranayama for anxiety that can help.
The anxiety that we feel manifests physically because our sympathetic nervous system is activated when we’re under pressure. This aspect of the nervous system is known as the “fight-or-flight” response, and when it is stimulated, we experience physical symptoms of distress.
In order to calm this physical response, we need to restore balance in the nervous system and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” response.
A critical tool for doing this is the breath. Practices like pranayama for anxiety can be a blessing in times of distress.
What Is Pranayama?
We typically take 16 breaths per minute. That’s 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, and 8,409,600 a year. Those breaths hold a lot of potential to benefit the body.
However, most people in Western society are “chest breathers.” Their inhalations only travel as far as their chest cavity, never reaching the bottom of the lungs. This is a huge loss, as the breath not only revitalizes the body but also helps to ease anxiety.
By slowing down and purposefully controlling and deepening the breath, we can begin to calm the nervous system. Pranayama can be utilized to do just that.
In Sanskrit, “prana” means breath energy or life-force energy and “yama” means control or restraint. Thus, pranayama practices are breath control exercises.
According to the ancient yogis, prana is the energy that flows throughout our entire body. When we take time to slow down and control our breath through pranayama exercises, we gain control of this energy and gain power over the anxiety infiltrating our being.
Pranayama exercises are tools that can be used anywhere by anyone. They’re easy to incorporate into routine. You can practice after waking up in the morning or in between work calls.
Pranayama exercises are especially useful because they are the most accessible form of yoga. All they require is sitting down and breathing.
Feeling anxious? These 3 Pranayama Techniques Will Bliss You The F– Out!
Pranayama for Anxiety – Try These 3 Pranayama Exercises to Help Ease Your Anxious Mind:
There are a variety of pranayama techniques out there, each with unique benefits. Below are three that are especially helpful for easing anxiety.
In order to get started, all you need to do is get into a comfortable position.
1. Dirga Pranayama (3-Part Breath)
Let’s try it:
- Place one hand on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest
- Notice the movement of your breath between three spaces: your low belly, low chest, and low throat
- Allow the speed of your breath to slow
- Focus entirely on the rhythmic motion of the air
- Let everything else fall away
- As your breath slows, notice your heart rate slow with it
2. Sama Vritti Pranayama (Same Length Breath)
Let’s try it:
- Equalize the length of your exhalation and inhalation through counting
- Begin by counting to five as you breathe in and counting to five as you breathe out
- After a few repetitions of this, increase the count to six, seven, and eventually, eight
- Allow the steady, measured breathing be an anchor for your anxious mind
- Let this create balance in your body, mind, and nervous system
Sama Vritti is a powerful pranayama for anxiety. Here’s how you can Find Peace Anytime With This Simple Pranayama Exercise
3. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)
Let’s try it:
- Close one nostril and inhale
- Switch to close your other nostril and exhale
- Inhale through the same nostril
- Then switch to the other nostril again to exhale
- Balance the air and energy on both hemispheres of your body through this practice
The Takeaway on Pranayama for Anxiety
It’s important when practicing to be kind and gentle to your body. Never force or restrict your breath.
If you ever feel any discomfort, return to normal breathing.
As we incorporate these tools into our day, we can effectively move from the “fight-or-flight” response into a “rest-and-digest” state.
Need more pranayama for anxiety? Use These 3 Yogic Breathing Exercises to Calm Down