Breathwork for Anxiety [Step by Step]

We often take for granted how important our breath is to our overall health. 

Breathwork practice is a powerful tool that brings awareness to the breath which stimulates our entire nervous system which leads to a number of health benefits; particularly for anxiety, depression, sleep apnea and even stammering. Let's explore a little further;

    What is Breathwork?

    Breathwork is an ancient practice that is used to control the mind and body. The practice involves regulating the breath cycle in order to achieve specific goals. Pranayama has many benefits, including improved mental clarity, reduced stress levels, and a stronger immune system.

    There are various techniques of this practice, so find which one works for you. Anyone can learn how to do pranayama breathwork with a little bit of practice. 

    Benefits of Breathwork

    The benefits of pranayama breathwork are plentiful and varied. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced meditator, learning to do pranayama breathwork can add another layer of depth and richness to your practice. “Prana” is the life force that drives all of creation, when practicing pranayama you are controlling your breath, which in turn controls the mind and emotions.

    If we're looking at it on a biological level, deep breathing through pranayama exercises triggers stimulation of the vagus nerve which regulates emotion and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

    Mental Health Benefits:

    1. Reduces stress and anxiety
    2. Improves concentration and focus
    3. Enhances mental clarity
    4. Balances emotions
    5. Increases self-awareness
    6. Promotes relaxation and calmness
    7. Helps manage depression and mood disorders
    8. Boosts feelings of happiness and well-being
    9. Promotes positive thinking and mindset
    10. Improves sleep quality

    Physical Health Benefits:

    1. Boosts the immune system
    2. Improves respiratory function
    3. Enhances cardiovascular health
    4. Improves lung capacity
    5. Increases energy levels
    6. Lowers blood pressure
    7. Promotes healthy digestion
    8. Improves posture
    9. Reduces inflammation
    10. Helps manage chronic pain and conditions such as asthma, COPD, and arthritis.

    How to Do Breathwork for Anxiety

    You can do this in one of two ways;

    1. When you have time to sit for 10 minutes for the full experience
    2. When you're feeling super anxious and want to calm your nervous system

    Here is the best technique:

    1. Find some time to be alone in a calm environment
    2. Sit down in a comfortable position (cross legged if possible) with your spine straight
    3. Inhale through the nose into the belly and then the chest until you've reached your capacity
    4. Hold this breath for 3 seconds
    5. Let the breath go through the mouth with an audible sigh
    6. Repeat for 3-10 breaths
    7. Take some time after this breathwork to sit in silence and feel how your body has changed
    8. If you still feel anxious repeat the breath

    When you're anxious in public do this technique:

    1. Take a second to clear your mind
    2. Inhale deeply through the nose until you've reached your capacity
    3. Hold it at the top of your head for 3 seconds
    4. Let go through the nose
    5. Repeat 3 times
    6. If you continue to feel anxious repeat 3 more times
    7. You should feel your anxiety begin to dissipate

    Breathwork for Anxiety

    Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling anxious or close to having a panic attack that your breath starts to shorten? You pant and can’t catch your breath because of the psychological stress induced on the body. 

    Pranayama practice can significantly reduce levels of anxiety by directly stimulating the vagus nerve and connectivity in the brain areas that process emotion, attention and awareness. Breathwork therefore is a powerful tool in alleviating feelings of anxiety.

    To calm anxiety you should adopt a pranayama technique that lengthens your inhalations and exhalations to calm the nervous system. 

    Breathwork for Depression

    Pranayama techniques can have a positive effect on alleviating the symptoms of depression, fatigue and low energy.

    Depression has been linked to a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.

    Pranayama is all about controlling your breath and using it to regulate your body and mind. Science has shown that breathing exercises can actually help to reduce the symptoms of depression.

    Through this focused breathwork you can reduce stress hormones, oxygenate the blood and adjust the nervous system by activating the vagus nerve. Coupled with the mindfulness and presence that comes from focusing on the breath, this breathwork technique can help to boost your energy, calm your mind and control negative emotions.

    Breathwork for Sleep Apnea

    By focusing on your breath, you can strengthen your lungs and diaphragm, which can help with sleep apnea.

    One of the main causes of sleep apnea is a weak upper airway. When we sleep, our muscles relax, including those in our throat and tongue. In people with sleep apnea, this relaxation causes the airway to collapse, leading to snoring and interrupted breathing. But by practicing pranayama, you can strengthen those muscles and keep the airway open. 

    When you practice this technique you can expect to:

    • increase their lung capacity,
    • enhance respiratory muscle function,
    • snore less frequently,
    • decrease the circumference of your necks,
    • improve  quality of sleep and
    • reduce daytime sleepiness. 

    Another way that pranayama can help with sleep apnea is by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Stress and anxiety can contribute to sleep apnea by making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. But by practicing pranayama, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body and mind.

    Breathwork for Stammering

    Pranayama breathwork has been shown to have some effects on stammering or stuttering in both children and adults. We know that stammering is a heterogenous speech disability which can be intensified by stress. Pranayama breathwork can alleviate and relax physiological stress on the muscles that are required for speaking by reducing the physical tension in the body.

    When we feel anxious or stressed, our muscles tend to tighten up, which can make it harder to speak smoothly. By practicing pranayama, you can learn to relax those muscles and let go of that tension.

    This coupled with mindfulness techniques may reduce the level of anxiety that contributes to a stutter. While this may not completely remedy a stammer, it can be a helpful tool in relieving the stress associated with stammering, which in turn has a positive effect on the lives of those who stutter.  

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your quality of life, we encourage you to try pranayama meditation and breathwork. Like anything else worthwhile, mastering these breathing techniques and experiencing their full effects will take time.

    Compare it to training a physical muscle in your body, you wouldn't expect to see biceps after only one training session.

    You may however feel some benefits like lightness, clarity and calm after your first pranayama breathwork session. Try to practice this technique daily for 1 week and see how it makes you feel.

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    Author Bio

    My background is in law and journalism. As a lawyer I was stressed out and struggling through life, I discovered spirituality through meditation and breathwork in my late 20s and love to share what I've learned here.