Guest blog by Abasin Mandozay, a breathwork, Journey and Kundalini Yoga teacher.
Can Breathwork reduce stress and anxiety? Breathwork has been around for a while now and is getting even more popular in the health and wellness community. It is being practiced alongside other exercises, including meditation and yoga. Generally, the benefits of breathwork revolve around calming the mind and reducing stress. It is also believed to improve an individual’s spiritual nature, especially when combined with other exercises such as mediation and yoga. It involves a variety of techniques each targeting a different aspect for specific benefits.
Breathwork is basically any exercise that focuses on the breathing patterns of an individual. It involves manipulating the breathing speed, depth and airways to give a specific effect that may benefit the person practicing it.
Breathwork stems from the science that connects the brain and the person’s airways. The depth and frequency of inhalations and exhalations have been found to affect the person’s mood, mental state, and even physical health.
Benefits of Breathwork
Breathing practices have numerous benefits. Can Breathwork Reduce Stress and Anxiety? Some of them are outlined below:
Anxiety – Individuals suffering from will often be breathing fast. This makes their breath shallow and may not provide enough oxygen to their body and brains. Breathwork for anxiety aims at slowing down their breathing and helping them focus on it so they can relax and think more clearly.
Reduced signs of stress and depression – Studies find that stress and anxiety trigger the production of the hormone cortisol, which among other adverse effects, speeds up breathing. This is why individuals under intense pressure or anxiety get panic attacks which speed up their breathing dramatically. Breathwork counters this effect by allowing more oxygen to get to the body. This helps to relax body muscles and give a general feeling of relief.
Improved energy levels – Breathing techniques such as deep breathing provide the body with more oxygen, which speeds up the production of energy.
Improved circulation and reduced blood pressure – Quick and uncoordinated breathing provides insufficient amounts of oxygen to the body, forcing the heart the beat faster and with more pressure to provide the required amounts. This is dangerous as it could cold put one at the risk of heart attacks, stroke and ruptured arteries.
The benefits of breathwork extend far beyond these and diversify depending on the breathwork exercises – check out beyond breathwork sequences that help you achieve maximum benefits.
How Does Breathwork Help to Reduce Anxiety?
Anxiety, stress, depression and any abnormal pressure on any person’s mind triggers the brain to produce the hormone cortisol. It is quite literally the opposite of the happy hormone serotonin – it is to be blamed for most panic attacks and anxiety symptoms. Cortisol causes one to breathe fast, limiting the amount of oxygen entering the body, leading to other problems such as high blood pressure.
Breathwork exercises, especially deep breathing, counter the effects of cortisol. Breathing deeply on a controlled manner allows the body to take in enough oxygen, which in turn slows down the heart to even blood pressure. The result is a relaxed feeling that helps the person think more clearly with less anxiety. Please make a point of doing further reading on breathwork benefits and how it works for more information.
As it turns out, breathing in deeply alone will not help you lower your anxiety effectively. You will also need to exhale deeply. Scientists have found that deep inhalations mostly affect the sympathetic nervous system, which basically affects your response to perceived danger. Exhalations, on the other hand, involve the mental state of an individual. Here’s how to do it:
- Breathe out with your mouth as deeply as you can.
- Breathe in naturally without deliberately making it too deep.
- Breathe out as you started. Ideally, try taking four seconds to breathe in and six to breathe out.
Breathing with the abdomen
There is a muscle that contracts and expands under your lungs when you inhale and exhale to adjust the chest volume as needed. When mastered well, the diaphragm can be very helpful in breathwork to reduce anxiety. Here is an excellent way to do abdomen breathing for instant relief from anxiety:
- You will need to lie down. Find a comfortable, flat place where you can perform the exercise safely for a few minutes.
- Raise one hand and place it just under your rib cage (on the diaphragm) and the other one on the left lung, just over your heart.
- Breathe in with the nose and slowly exhale, focusing on your abdomen and chest’s movement where your hands are.
- As you carry on, try breathing in and out with coordination so that your abdomen moves more than your chest.
This is one of the most popular breathing techniques for anxiety. It involves deep breathing with a keen focus on breathing patterns and movements. It can be done while sitting or standing, as long as you are comfortable.
- Lie down or stand up and try to be at ease.
- Breath in and out normally. Feel your body for tension.
- With your nose, breathe in slowly and deeply. You can close your eyes if it helps you focus better.
- Focus on the movement of your chest and abdomen.
- Breathe out slowly with your nose or mouth.
- Repeat for a few more minutes
Sometimes, focus breathing is done with words to enhance the experience. One can use words like “love” when breathing in and “stress” when breathing out.
Conclusively, breathwork is very effective in helping to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. It helps to coordinate inhalation and exhalation, so the body gets enough air and moves freely. It helps to slow down everything so the person can think in a clearer and less pressured way.
Abasin is a breathwork, Journey and Kundalini Yoga teacher. He facilitates workshops both online and in Australia and Asia. Currently based in Bali, where he has founded Beyond Breathwork, a breathwork style and sequence of programs for people to access their innate genius, clear subconscious blocks and step into their power in life and business.