How to Alleviate Anxiety through Breathwork

Dr. Purushothaman
September 24, 2013

One of the prominent symptoms and effects of stress is on the way we breathe. If you want to tell whether a person is anxious, pay close attention to his breathing. Similarly, when a person himself is anxious, his breath tends to come out ragged and in short intervals. Considering the impact anxiety has on breathing, you can actually manipulate it to work in your favor and de-stress through breathwork. What is Breathwork? Breathwork therapy is a psychotherapeutic method of consciously altering your breathing pattern to expunge unhealthy carbon dioxide from the body to be replaced with fresh air. A prominent example of this therapy is portrayed through Pranayama, a yoga asana concentrated entirely on relaxing the body through deep breathing. The reason why breathwork aids in relieving stress is because it regulates the amount of air in the body, and since breathing is the main source of removing up to 70% of the body’s waste, a deprivation can drive the person towards an agitated state of mind. What happens is when the body is deprived of oxygen or gets less than the required amount; the body tends to suffer from a condition known as hypoxia. This often leads to slowing down of the working of the brain and nervous system, resulting in hazy vision, clouded thoughts and tightening of the muscles. Incidentally, all the aforementioned results are also described as the effects of stress and anxiety. Hence, we can conclude that by consciously altering the way you breathe, you can either relieve or worsen your current state of anxiety. This is also the reason behind the anger management technique- count your breath whenever you are angry. By counting your breath, you are focusing on your breathing pattern and subconsciously forcing yourself to concentrate on something other than the cause of anger. The next time you feel anxious or stressed out, try the breathwork technique. If you are just starting off, try doing the Pranayama when you’re stressed. Start with deep breathing, inhale to the maximum so that you can feel your diaphragm move down considerably. Then exhale all the air out. Repeat at least 20 times. You can try the advanced version when you get a hang of it. For the advanced version, use your thumb to press one of your nostrils to the inner wall of your nose and then inhale through the other nostril. When you are exhaling, use the ring finger to block the other nostril (the one you inhaled from) and exhale from the other nostril. Another technique is to concentrate entirely on exhaling. When you exhale deeply, you automatically end up creating a void in your body, which automatically regulates your breathing and you invariably take in much deeper breaths. Or you can breathe in intervals, breathe in once and then say one Mississippi in your mind and then take another breath and then 2 Mississippi. Breathwork is intensively used in meditation, which helps in both reducing stress and preventing anxiety attacks. Meditating on a regular basis is recommended for those who tend to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
My name is Mulyadi Kurnia. I am a practitioner of meditation and yoga and has been experiencing the benefits of the practices. Having gone through the periods of stress and anxiety myself, I know first hand of how unpleasant this experience could be. Through this article, I intend to share my knowledge and experience on stress-related topics.

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