Just Breathe to Manage Anxious Thoughts

I first learned about the Complete Breathing technique after reading Stephen Cope’s The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living. The author prescribed the practice to a yoga student who could not seem to calm down his erratic breath. Cope tells the individual to essentially observe the breath and relax the belly. This is similar to alternate nostril breathing in that it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, calming down the body very quickly. The result is a reduction of anxiety and management of stress response.

What is essential here is practicing abdominal breathing, or breathing where the belly expands. This is in contrast to chest breathing which may contribute to hyperventilation. Think of your stomach muscles moving inward as you breathe in through your nose and breathe out through pursed lips. There is a really good how-to that is done by a running author if you want to look more into it. Here are the steps:

1. Sit up straight with your spine long, shoulder blades down and back. This can either be on the floor or on a chair.

2. Put one hand on your belly and the other up near your chest or heart.

3. Take a deep breath in through your nose to completely fill your lungs. Breathe from your abdomen and hold for three seconds.

4. Exhale the breath out slowly through pursed lips and rid all of the air out of your lungs.

5. Repeat for several breath cycles.


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