How can breathing exercise help to reduce your anxiety?

Breathing exercise

Breathing is a vital biological process by which oxygen enters the lungs and enables carbon dioxide to leave the body through exhalation.  Breathing is also one of the physical processes that responds to our emotional or physical state. For example, we hold our breath when in fear or breathe faster when stressed. Likewise, it affects most of the other emotional states such as anger, fatigue, disgust, sadness, happiness etc.  Breathing is also one of the few processes which can be altered by thinking consciously about it. Several studies indicate that slow and deep breathing exercises can relax the mind and improve your memory, attention and awareness.

What are the different kinds of breathing patterns?

In general, there are two kinds of breathing patterns, chest breathing and abdominal breathing. If you put one hand on the chest and the other on your abdomen you can easily determine your breathing pattern. While breathing, if the hand on your chest raises more than the other, then it is called chest breathing. Chest breathing can cause decreased intake of oxygen resulting in increased heart rate, muscle tension and the likes. During abdominal breathing, your abdominal walls move in and out as we take deep breaths, letting enough oxygen to enter the lungs. This breathing pattern is observed in babies or when we are in the relaxed state.

How to do a simple deep breathing exercise?

  • Make yourself comfortable in a quiet place without much distraction.
  • You can either sit up or lie down on your back.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose. As you inhale, count to 4 and feel the cool air entering your nostrils and filling up your abdomen.
  • Count to 7 as you hold your breath.
  • As your exhale, count to 8 and feel the warm air going out of your mouth, making a ‘whoosh’ sound and emptying your abdomen.
  • Repeat this cycle for at least 4-5 times.

What are the benefits of deep breathing exercises?

  • It improves blood circulation in the body, reduces inflammation and acts as a natural pain killer
  • A regular practice can help you to detox your body, improve your metabolism and also your awareness and attention.
  • Deep breathing sends a message to the brain to calm down and thus helping you combat stress

Deep breathing exercises should be practiced twice a day for several weeks to observe noticeable change in stress response. Simple exercises such as these will help you manage stress during these trying times of COVID where there is uncertainty surrounding your job, health and well-being. A healthy well-balanced diet, a good workout and restful sleep along with few breathing exercises will keep you emotionally and physically stable.  For longer exercises one could also practice mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation etc. To learn more about breathing and meditation techniques you could contact mindsupport, Trivandrum.