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Published on May 24, 2018

5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Time and time again, we’re told what a powerful tool breathing exercises can be for reducing anxiety and more specifically, the physical effects anxiety has on our body.

Yet how often have you gone hunting to find suitable breathing exercises for anxiety only to bump into a string of complex yoga jargon and techniques that take so long to master that they’re just not fit for purpose?

After all, when you’re in the grip of crippling anxiety or -worse- a full-blown panic attack, you simply don’t have the time to assume the lotus position and start worrying pranayama, whatever that is.

What you need is quick, simple solutions you can apply right there on the spot to relax your breathing and return to feeling calm and in control within seconds.

Today, we’ll look at five of the best breathing techniques for doing just that, ranging from powerful techniques you can use to curtail anxiety before it escalates, to quick-fixes you can use in an emergency whenever a panic attack strikes.

Why do breathing exercises for anxiety work?

Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Doesn’t it just feel better?

In that moment, you’re focused only on that breath. Your mind isn’t occupied with reading this article, listening to background noise or getting lost in the thousand and one thoughts rushing through your mind. Instead, it’s tuned only to that breath, on the slow, deep inhale and calm, relaxing exhale.

Take another deep breath and this time, pay attention to how you feel. This time, you’ll notice that not only is your mind clearer because of the reason mentioned above but also that you feel physically different, even if only for a moment.

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This is because, as you focus on those slow, deep breaths, you’re sending a message to your brain that it’s time for calm. Your brain, in turn, sends messages throughout your body that result in that feeling of calm washing gently over you.

Now, compare this to what happens when you’re in the grip of anxiety.

When you get anxious, you tend to do what’s called thoracic -or chest- breathing, releasing quick, shallow breaths in rapid succession.

Often, instead of slowing down your breathing, you get caught up in how those rapid breaths make you feel as though you’re not getting enough oxygen, thus escalating the level of panic. This sends all kinds of confusing signals to the brain which, in response, sends its own signals back through the body, negatively affecting your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As a result, your blood isn’t sufficiently oxygenated and thus you end up with all the classic symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks such as a thumping heart, dizziness and muscle tension.

When you finally take note of our breathing and consciously return it to slow, even diaphragmatic breathing (breathing using your diaphragm), you signal to your brain that it’s time to correct the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, alleviating those symptoms and making you feel calm and relaxed in the process.

So, that’s the science stuff out of the way, but how do you actually use breathing exercises for anxiety?

Quick and effective breathing exercises for anxiety

Here are five quick and effective techniques you can use right now, or whenever you need them, to return yourself to a peaceful state of calm.

1. Easy abdominal breathing technique

Let’s start with one of the simplest and most effective techniques available.

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You might have seen this referred to as “belly breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing techniques.” Whatever name you see it by, the technique is essentially the same.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Abdominal breathing technique in action:

  1. Sitting or lying in a comfortable position, close your eyes, relax your shoulders and allow any tension in your muscles to disappear if at all possible.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Your bellow should expand whilst your chest rises very little. If it helps, you can put your hand on your bellow and feel the inhaled breath pushing that hand up.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Keeping your jaw relaxed, purse your lips as you blow, though remember to keep the exhale nice and gentle. Again, you can keep your hand on your stomach and very lightly push down as you exhale.
  4. Repeat for several minutes until you feel calm again.

Like most of these exercises, you may find it helpful to practice this one even when you’re feeling anxious. That way, you’ll know just what to do when the time comes that you do need to use it.

2. Buteyko breathing method

One common symptom of an anxiety or panic attach is hyperventilating. This involves breathing so rapidly that it almost feels that you just can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs no matter what you do.

In actual fact, the very opposite is happening. Hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen getting in, upsetting the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and inducing those feelings of panic. The Buteyko method readdresses that balance, proving itself to be highly effective in stopping hyperventilation.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Buteyko breathing method in action:

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  1. Sit comfortably, take a gentle breathe in through the nose.
  2. Just as gently, breathe out, again through the nose.
  3. Immediately following the exhale, pinch your nose with your fingers and hold your breath.
  4. Continue to hold your breath for as long as you can.
  5. When you feel a natural urge to breathe again, let go of the nose and breathe out.
  6. Resume breathing as normally as possible.
  7. Wait for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat until you feel calm and relaxed.

3. 1:4:2 Power breaths

Fans of best-selling author and performance coach Tony Robbins may already be familiar with this one.

Featured in Robbins’ groundbreaking 2001 book Unlimited Power, this powerful technique can help you quickly move from the short, shallow thoracic breathing that creates panic attacks to the deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing that leaves us calm and relaxed:

Like all the breathing exercises we’re looking at today, this one has the added benefit that by focussing on it and it alone, we’re able to take our thoughts away from the anxiety trigger, putting our minds in a clear, calm state from which we can better tackle what’s in front of us.

It’s called 1:4:2 because that’s the ratio used to determine how long to inhale, hold and exhale a breath. Using that ratio for an initial count of five, for example, the technique would look like this:

1:4:2 in action:

  1. Inhale for five seconds
  2. Hold the breath in for 20 seconds
  3. Exhale for 10 seconds.

If you find that this is too much, you can always adjust the number of seconds providing you stick to the same ratio.

You could, for example, do the following:

  1. Inhale for three seconds
  2. Hold the breath for 12 seconds
  3. Exhale for six seconds.

Tony Robbins recommends doing 10 “power breaths” three times a day, though even if you don’t remember to do it throughout your day, repeating this exercise ten times when you’re struggling with anxiety can really help with alleviating the symptoms you’re dealing with.

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4. Equal breathing

If all that talk of numbers and ratios causes you more anxiety than it solves, here’s a much simpler version. This one focuses on breathing in and our for an equal number of breaths:

Equal breathing in action:

  1. Breathe in slow and steady through the nose for a count of four.
  2. Relax and exhale for the same count of four.
  3. Repeat until feeling calm and relaxed.

You might also find it helpful to use this one before bed if your anxiety is causing you sleep problems.

5. Alternate nostril breathing

Finally, we come to one of the trickier breathing exercises for anxiety, albeit one that can prove hugely beneficial in helping us move from thoracic to diaphragmatic breathing, as well as regaining focus when anxiety sends your thoughts into a spin.

Here’s a video to help you go through the technique:

Alternate nostril technique in action:

  1. Place your right thumb over your right nostril.
  2. Breathe in through your left nostril.
  3. Put your finger over your left nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  4. Alternate breathing in through one nostril and out through the other, blocking whichever nostril you’re not using.

Choose the best breathing exercises for your anxiety

Whilst some of these techniques are best used in specific circumstances (such as Buteyko for hyperventilation), each one ultimately achieves the same result — Getting us out of those fast, shallow breaths that cause our anxiety symptoms and back into the deep, relaxing breaths that leave us feeling calm.

To determine which one is best for you, you might want to take some time to practice each one and decide for yourself which is the most effective in alleviating your anxiety.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Writer, coach, and trainee counsellor specialising in mental health and addiction.

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Published on June 20, 2018

6 Compelling Reasons to Try Couples Yoga (And the Best Poses to Try)

6 Compelling Reasons to Try Couples Yoga (And the Best Poses to Try)

Yoga is an integrated exercise that includes training both body and mind. In addition to contemplation, its techniques are numerous including relaxation and physical movements. Yet couples yoga is unique in its nature and reasons. It has its own compelling reasons that make it both necessary and fun.

Sometimes intimate couples’ relationship undergoes some kind of ups and downs that make it in need of more bonding and excitement. Experts and practitioners in the field confirm that practicing couples yoga would be an effective treatment.

Kristin Buettner (2016) states that in such a case, the calming, harmonizing practice of yoga would be a fabulous escape from stressors of daily life. She states also that it could increase the couples’ relationship ability to be more flexible, more intimate, and stronger.

The most compelling reasons to try couples yoga

There are numerous reasons why practicing yoga should be part and parcel of couples’ daily routine. Yet there are some more compelling reasons:

1. Build emotional support

In any pose you may do, you will rely, entirely or partially, on your partner. You won’t be trying doing your exercise depending just on yourself. You both will feel you need each other more. You both will feel to what extent you can assist each other to achieve a shared aim.

In all poses, you will also feel that you have to relinquish control to your partner. You will let her/him choose relying on you for doing some movements. This experience helps you find out each other’s new talents and powers. It also lets you discover your limitations and work together for expanding them.

You need to support your emotional relationship. So you will find that practicing couples yoga as a daily routine is a most compelling reason for clinging to it.

2. Enhance intimacy and sex life

A study performed by Loyola University Health System in 2013 showed that partner yoga could help couples who are suffering from sex dysfunction. There is a pattern of yoga that includes massage, breathing exercises and reciprocally beneficial poses. Couples can do such exercises to build confidence, intimacy and better sexual intercourses.

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Sometimes couples experience resentment due to either log-term relationship or the same daily boring routine. Such feeling will inevitably lead to resentment. In this case, practicing partner yoga could be more effectual.

3. Reduce stress and anxiety

It is well known that yoga reduces stress and delimits anxiety. Partner yoga, on the other hand, can do the same for both partners, and what is more is that it can augment peace of mind.

Being in a relationship with a partner could add more responsibility. Much research proves that responsibility is one significant factor that causes stress. Such personal relationship can also result in anxiety. Even partners’ day-to-day living may cause excessive anxiety that could have a negative influence on their relationship.

Couples yoga practice can help partners stay calm and relaxed in the midst of daily life. It also helps couples face the events that afflict them with a sense of discomfort and anxiety.

4. Eliminate egotism and pride

One of the most devastative factors of intimate relationship is egotism. Those who suffer egotism are always narcissistic and overwhelmed by destructive pride. When one of the partners is egotistic, there would be no sort of communication or understanding.

Even sexual wellness specialists state that egotism and pride are factors which affect intimacy negatively. Doing partners’ yoga exercises are crucial in this case. They help couples depend on each other’s effort. They also teach them how to accept each other with their differences and drawbacks.

Couples yoga will help couples strengthen their relationship spiritually, emotionally and sentimentally.

5. Create opportunities to spend time together

Partner yoga helps partners how to give and take. Nowadays people are too busy to get time to spend with their partners. Such instances would deprive one of them of having enough time with the other. Therefore, distance might takes place, which creates frustration and boredom.

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Hence, both partners should create shared moments during which they can get together and enjoy their relationship. Yoga is the most suitable way that can offer them such opportunity. Each one can bear the other’s heavy loads by sharing the exercises moments. Every one of them will rely on the other and give him/her the best chance to receive their weight.

6. Offer a touch of warmth and affection

Warmth and affection could slip away in the wade of life preoccupations. This, of course, could lead to a cold and dull relationship.

Experts and specialists confirm that touch is an integral part of partner yoga. This integral part can heighten the partners’ desire towards getting into more poses that give them the feeling of warmth and affection.

One physical touch during the shared exercises can ignite feelings of love and adoration. Such touch could augment their awareness of each other and their hearts will beat with passion.

The best yoga poses to bring partners closer

It is a wonderful experience when you practice yoga with your partner. It is even more wonderful when you both create new postures depending on each other’s thoughts and innovative ideas. Love and adoration do wonder when couples create effective yoga postures.

Partners can use their body weight, hands, legs and even eyes to help each other form the most suitable posture. It is all about co-operative work that infuses affection and willpower in themselves. If your partner is romantic, try the following best poses that can inflame his/her love and romance:

1. Partner double tree

    In this exercise, you will delicately lean on your partner a bit and try to make the figure of a double tree.

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    1. Stand side by side making a tree pose.
    2. Looking at the same direction (to the forward), place your right foot against the inside of the left thigh.
    3. Place your inside arm around each other’s waist.
    4. Lift the outside arm up.
    5. Place all your weight on the inside leg.
    6. Try to make your outside foot touch your ankle, thigh or calf.
    7. Then, you can complete the pose either ways:
      – Bring your arm across the front and press your palm gently against your partner’s; or
      – Touch each other’s hand overhead so as to create an arch.
    8. Stand still and count for 15 to 20 seconds or breaths. Afterwards, try to switch side and do the same.

    2. Downward double dog

      This pose might seem difficult to you but it’s very easy. It will give you both the feeling of modesty and closeness. After repeating it for several times, your partner will feel very close to you. And there will be no more pride.

      1. Tell your partner to lie on arms and legs. Legs are straightened letting the area of the hips (buttocks) higher than the arms, and head down.
      2. Do the same placing your legs and feet on your partner’s buttocks, forwarding your heat downwards.
      3. Take deep breaths in intervals as long as you can.
      4. Try not to speak a word during the session.
      5. After 10 to 20 seconds, exchange the roles.
      6. Repeat exchanging the roles for four or five times, or until you feel satisfied.

      3. Back to back pose

        With this pose, both partners exert the same effort without any trouble. After doing such exercise, you will feel much refreshed. You will also feel better blood circulation.

        1. Sit down back-to-back with your partner doing the same so that your spines are both quite aligned.
        2. Twist you torsos to the right, putting your left hands on the right knees and the right hand on the partner’s left knee. This is to help yourselves stretch well.
        3. Get back to the center and raise your hands up.
        4. Loop your hands together, pressing your elbows against each other.
        5. One of you can lean forward, stretching the area between shoulders.
        6. Keep such pose for about 5 to 10 breaths, then exchange roles.
        7. Place your feet hip-width apart out.
        8. Hook inner elbows and try to stand up.
        9. Repeat sitting down and standing up for 3 to 4 times.

        4. Partner camel

          It is the most wonderful sensation when you feel deep affection and getting closer to you partner. Such sensation can be more overwhelming when you both do yoga like one hand in one glove. Be ready to do an amazing co-operative exercise that will make you live in a dreamful world; it is partner camel couple yoga.

          1. Facing each other, kneel and grab each other’s forearms.
          2. Push your hips forward.
          3. Push your chests and heads backward, and lean back.
          4. While leaning back, grasp you partner’s forearm firmly so as to keep balance.
          5. With the other free hands, catch you ankles and try to put all weight on them.
          6. Repeat the same pose on the other side, using the free forearms.
          7. Take some moments to do this interesting exercise. Repeating it once or twice a week will help you restore your warm connection.

          5. Temple pose

            Either do it as a stand-alone exercise or as a ring of an exercise program chain, temple pose is amazing. Here is how to do it together:

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            1. Stand straight facing each other.
            2. Take a space about 3 feet from each other.
            3. Lean forward while taking a deep breath.
            4. With you arms, try to reach your partner’s arms.
            5. Get your elbows to touch, and grasp each other’s hand firmly.
            6. Let your elbows and forearms rest against your partner’s.
            7. Place your chest and faces against the ground.
            8. Stay still for about 10 breaths.
            9. Step forward while releasing each one’s hands, and let your arms down.
            10. Take a deep breath and hold it for 5 seconds.

            If you would like to repeat this exercises again, you may feel much enjoyment. It is quite entertaining. Try it now!

            6. Boat pose

              A breathtaking body posture that can fill partners’ hearts with joy and feeling of passion in this body pose. Try it once and you can’t do yoga without it. It could offer you more relaxation and calmness.

              1. Sit on a mat facing each other.
              2. Take a suitable distance from each other.
              3. Bend your hip joints as much as you can.
              4. Let you feet touch your partner’s.
              5. Let your toes touch firmly.
              6. Hold each other’s hands.
              7. Keep your back straight, and chest extended.

              You should know that this exercise needs some more effort and strength. So, it is not recommended for elderly people. Yet, it can rejuvenate your body refreshment and vitality. It also implants the tendency to loyalty and dedication into your hearts.

              7. Forward and back bend

                This exercise requires you to have strong and much flexible bodies. If you doubt this, please do not try it. In spite of this, it is entirely considered as one of the most important and effective couple yoga exercises. Each movement in this exercises requires you and your partner to do well in helping each other. Once you have done it perfectly, you will feel more love and adoration hit your hearts gently with their magic stick!

                1. Sit back to back.
                2. Place your legs away in front of you.
                3. Bend forward while your legs are straight, and spread your arms forward.
                4. Let your partner stand up and begin to lean backward on your body, extending legsbr and feet facing flour .
                5. Switch and let your partner sit bending forward.
                6. Do as your partner has done with you before.

                There are many reasons why couples yoga is so compelling. To keep your love life vivid and full of refreshment, try to practice some of the above partner yoga exercises on a regular basis!

                Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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