Yogic Breath Practices to Minimize Stress & Anxiety

Breath is life and therefore attention to breath is paramount to how our life will unfold. Everything else can and should supplement the effectiveness of proper breathing – awareness, movement, nutrition and spiritual practices.

Where the breath goes, the mind goes. Watch the breath and it slows down; the attention turns toward inward reflection. Stay with this and the mind moves toward feelings of gratitude as we realize the intricacies of the breath and the intricacies of the body. Follow these thoughts and arrive at contemplating purpose of life, welcoming opportunities for service, seva.

Practice a difficult pose with a determined commitment to your breath. Presence, focus and calm become part of the experience. Effort for something challenging becomes balanced with steadiness and ease via the breath. Attention to both breath and skillful movement yield excellent outcomes, to include improved focal skills. Have you ever caught yourself holding your breath when trying to do something difficult? This is common and a subconscious reaction of the sympathetic system. Yoga practice with a skilled teacher will change that and better breathing habits travel with you off the mat and into life. Try the 6 sequences in our Essential Yoga Practice DVD and notice the cues for breathing with certain movements. Order yours HERE.

Let’s review two breath practices:

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) offers a credible and immediately noticeable decrease in stress and anxiety, clearer thinking as well as relaxed sinus passages and facial tension. Sit comfortably upright and using your right hand, fold your index and middle finger into your palm. Then use your thumb to gently seal your right nostril. Exhale first through your left nostril and then breathe in through your left nostril. Using your ring finger, gently close your left nostril, exhale and inhale through the right nostril. Repeat this with slow deep breathing for 8 to 10 rounds, ending with exhaling through the left nostril. When repeating in the evening, begin this practice with the right nostril. Sit and reflect and notice the open passages and the quiet nature of the mind and body. If we give the mind a one-pointed focus, the wandering, racing patterns of the mind will have a break and so will our nervous system. The outcome is lowered anxiety/stress. We can use the salvaged mental energy for ways to enjoy life, for clarity and for being present.

Diaphragmatic breathing – this can be done when sitting or with support in savasana, corpse pose. Begin by emptying the lungs. Upon inhalation, focus on allowing the belly to relax first and while continuing the breath, then notice how the rib cage opens and how deep a breath you can take. Once you are ready to exhale, allow the belly to drop first, then slowly let the lungs empty. Notice where your breath goes, and how each breath continues to expand the chest. Take a few normal breaths when needed and then return to this pattern. Focusing on the 3rd chakra of the body, the navel center, through this breathing exercise allows the flow of creativity, the resolve to be steadfast in following intuition, the true you to emerge. This chakra is tied to the emergence of your unique gifts!

As you deepen your practice, ensure better air quality in these cold weather months by using a diffuser and aromatherapy to:

1. Clear the air of airborne pathogens. All citrus oils are anti-viral!

2. Promote better respiration. Use a breathe blend or eucalyptus, lavender and/or cardamom.

3. Support emotional outlook with marjoram, basil, lavender, peppermint, frankincense and any other tree oils like Siberian fir or sandalwood.

Once we embrace breath practices as a vital form of self-care, we start to value its importance. Consider using one or both of these breathing exercises on a daily basis. Share what unfolds with us in Essential Yoga Practice social media(Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as you use these tools for management of stress and resolve in commitment to your health and well-being. Message us here for access to our essential oils.

SM prompts:

1. Embrace the deep breathing practices and pranayamas that yoga has to offer. The result: A better connection to our present state.

2. Try diaphragmatic breathing - a way to connect to your true self by tapping into the body’s wisdom using inward reflection through breath awareness.

3. Use breath awareness as a means to quiet the mind.

4. Breath work in yoga is a means to being more intentional in self care – breath work is beneficial to building lung capacity, as well as resilience of the body’s immune system.

5. Yogic Breathing Cultivates Steadiness and Ease