We humans are intelligent beings. We know how to harness the power of our minds and regulate our thoughts effectively. However, with our intensive mental activity, we also experience mental stress and anxiety.
Mental issues are not permanent; they arise due to the presence of troubling thoughts in our minds. These cognitive issues can manifest as various symptoms, including sleepless nights, loss of appetite, worrying, fear, dyslexia, panic attacks, random shocks, and more.
There can be many underlying reasons for such issues, and even modern medical science can only identify these problems but cannot give a permanent cure. Mental issues, like anxiety, can stem from a person’s childhood experiences. Prolonged suffering and the absence of loving kindness can lead to anxiety and depression.
However, these problems can be resolved and managed by achieving clarity of thought and learning to control your mental activities through meditation. In this article, we have identified a simple breathing meditation technique that can be beneficial for managing anxiety and depression.
Understanding the Connection: Anxiety and Breath
A. How Anxiety Affects Your Health?
Anxiety is a complex mental health condition characterized by excessive worry and fear about future events or situations. It can manifest with a variety of symptoms, including:
- Persistent and irrational fear or apprehension.
- Physical symptoms such as nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort.
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Negative thought patterns and excessive self-doubt.
- Difficulty in comprehending or concentrating on ongoing life events.
- Rapid or shallow breathing in response to stressful thoughts or situations.
It’s important to note that anxiety can manifest differently in individuals, and there may be additional symptoms beyond those listed above. Anxiety often involves a sense of uneasiness and can be debilitating for some people.
Coping strategies and treatment options are available to help manage anxiety, and seeking professional help is advisable for those experiencing significant distress. Running away from problems is not a recommended solution but rather addressing and managing anxiety in a healthy way is essential.
B. The Role of Breath in Anxiety Management
Controlled breathing can be highly effective during moments of an anxiety attack. It helps rewire your thought process, allowing you to regain focus and alleviate fear in your mind.
Controlled breathing involves being mindful of your inhaling and exhaling movements. You pay close attention to your breath, which becomes deeper and more deliberate than your usual breathing.
Here’s how controlled breathing can help during an anxiety attack:
- It is better to start by bringing your body an upright position with hands resting on your legs. Either in a sitting posture on a chair or in a padmasana position with an upright back.
- When you breathe in mindfully, you redirect your thoughts away from anxiety and focus on the act of breathing in.
- During the transition between inhaling and exhaling, your mind is occupied with the current activity, leaving no room for anxious thoughts.
- When you breathe out, you are fully aware of the process of breathing out, and this can provide relief from anxiety-related thoughts.
- Practice this controlled breathing technique multiple times, remaining fully mindful of the activity, and you’ll find that it leaves no space for thoughts of anxiety.
Breathing is a powerful tool that can help alleviate anxiety-provoking thoughts. By exercising this simple breathing exercise regularly you may also develop thoughts to counter anxiety in you.
Breathing Techniques for Anxiety Relief
A. Pranayama: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Anxiety
Pranayama is commonly practiced in conjunction with yoga. It is recognized as the fourth segment or element of yoga and is often considered a scientific discipline. The fundamental idea behind pranayama is the mastery of the mind’s influence through the regulation of one’s breath.
The term ‘pranayama’ is derived from the combination of two words: ‘prana,’ which signifies breath, and ‘ayama,’ with multiple connotations such as expansion, elongation, and ascension.
In yogic philosophy, there is a belief that a regular pranayama practice allows one to control their inner essence, known as prana. Prana, in the context of yoga, also represents physical forces like light, warmth, magnetism, and vitality. These interpretations revolve around how pranayama enhances breath control and promotes mental harmony. Additionally, a strong pranayama breathing technique is believed to have detoxifying effects on the body.
B. Exploring Breathing Exercises
There are many forms of pranayama exercise that you perform to release your stress and anxiety. These are as follows:
Kapalbhati represents a type of Pranayama practice where you maintain an upright posture. Place your hands on your knees with your palms open. Afterward, inhale deeply, drawing your abdomen toward your spine. Gradually release your stomach, allowing the air to effortlessly enter your lungs. Repeat this sequence 20 times.
- Nadi Shodhana
Nadi Shodhana, also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing Yoga, presents another variant of Pranayama. The term ‘Nadi Shodhana’ originates from Sanskrit, combining ‘Channel’ and ‘Purification’ in its essence.
The primary objective of Nadi Shodhana is to promote balance by cleansing and purifying the mind and body. To execute this Pranayama, commence with a deep inhalation followed by a gradual exhalation. Create a ‘Vishnu Mudra’ with your hands by folding your middle and index fingers towards the base of your right thumb.
Seal your right nostril with your thumb and your left nostril with your ring finger. Inhale through your left nostril while keeping your right nostril closed. Then, exhale through your right nostril while keeping your left nostril closed. Repeat this process twice.
- Anulom Vilom Pranayama
- Assume the Padmasana posture (or opt for the Siddhasana position if Padmasana isn’t comfortable for you – refer to the provided image).
- Begin by using your right-hand thumb to gently close your right nostril.
- Inhale gradually and deeply through your left nostril.
- Release the closure on your right nostril and instead use your ring and middle fingers of the same hand to close your left nostril.
- Exhale slowly through your right nostril.
- Now, inhale through your right nostril, simultaneously releasing your left nostril.
- Close your right nostril once again using your thumb and exhale slowly through your left nostril.
- Repeat this sequence for a duration of 10-15 minutes (or take breaks and continue as per your comfort).
- Bhastrika Pranayama
- Assume a seated position in Padmasana (or, if Padmasana isn’t comfortable, consider the Siddhasana posture as illustrated in the accompanying image).
- Close your eyes and commence with deep inhalations through your nostrils.
- Exhale briskly through your nostrils.
- Continue this rhythmic breathing pattern for approximately 2-5 minutes.
The Practice of Guided Meditation
A. Guided Meditation as a Holistic Approach
Meditation is another approach to healing your mind and gaining control over your thoughts. The processes in meditation and Pranayama share many similarities and address similar concepts, although there are differences in their techniques.
In meditation, you also focus on your incoming and outgoing breath. The practice may vary; in some cases, it involves observing the movement of your belly. Breathing exercises designed for managing anxiety and depression can also be considered a form of meditative practice. For instance, in Theravada Buddhism, Anapana is a technique that involves observing the breath.
By consciously breathing through anxiety and dispelling destructive thoughts, you can make progress toward improving your mental health.
B. Will Meditation Help with Anxiety?
If you are a complete beginner starting with breathing techniques for anxiety, it is advisable to try a guided meditation program. Such a program provides expert guidance in techniques and exercises to help manage your stress and anxiety effectively.
In a guided meditation program, you will receive assistance from a professional teacher until you become proficient in the techniques of breathing and meditation. These programs are ideal for individuals who are entirely new to these practices.