3 Breathing Exercices for Anxiety Relief
3 Guided Breathing Exercises to Get Started
There are countless breathing exercises advocated on the web. It can get quite confusing and, as a beginner, you may be wondering where to start. To make it easy for you, I've hand-picked 3 very different guided breathing exercises from renowned authorities in health and performance, namely Tony Robbins, Wim Hof, and Andrew Weil.
If I were you, I'd try them all (NOT consecutively, allow a few hours between each) and continue with the one I feel the most at ease with. Remember, whichever one you choose, you'll be doing twice a day for the next 5 weeks, so make sure you're comfortable with it.
1. Tony Robbins's Power Breathing
The breath goes in and out through the nose. The air is projected in bursts from the gut (diaphragm, to be scientifically correct). As you inhale, your arms go up, palms open, facing up. As you exhale, cling your fists and dynamically drawback your elbows to the sides of your rib cage. Perform 3 sets of 30 breaths with 30-60 seconds of rest between each set. As you rest, close your eyes and notice any sensation or emotion that arises.
2. The Wim Hof Method
"Fully in. Let go." is the basic formula behind Wim Hof's breathing method. The principle here is that we inhale more air than we release, creating a surplus of oxygen in the body.
The Wim Hof method is very unique in that it allows you to hold your breath for more than 1 minute on empty lungs - and that from the very first try (my personal record for breath-hold was 45 seconds prior to discovering this technique).
Here's how to perform the Wim Hof breathing method. Take a deep breath in until your lungs are full ("fully in"). Use either the nose or the mouth, it doesn't matter. Then, instead of pushing the air out, simply release it ("let go"). In other words, you don't want to exhale; you want to open up your windpipe and let the air come out on its own. Repeat.
Perform 3 sets of 30 to 40 reps (you'll know you're there when you start feeling a slight tingle in your extremities). On the last breath, exhale fully and hold at the bottom of the breath. Close your eyes and remain in apnea until you feel the need to breathe again.
When it happens, take a deep breath in and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds, then release and go on with the next set.
3. Dr. Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 Breathing
A classic. This method goes under many different names. Ultimately, it involves breathing out twice as long as you breathe in and holding your breath at the peak of each rep. Inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7, and breathe out for a count of 8.
You can count at whatever speed you're comfortable with. Just make sure that you respect the 4:7:8 ratio.
Perform 4 reps and you're done. This is the last time-consuming exercise of all 3.
When to do breathing exercises?
Practicing some sort of breathing exercise daily can truly lead to miraculous results, from improving your mental performance to relieving the symptoms of your mood or sleep disorders.
The key to experiencing those results firsthand, however, is not as much the frequency at which one performs the exercises, but the consistency with which they do. It's like anything else. You don't get ripped after one month of hitting weights. You don't lose weight by eating a cucumber salad once in a blue moon. You don't become an expert in your field by reading Amazon's best-selling book on the topic.
When performing breathing exercises, you are training your body to unlearn its breathing patterns and replace them with new, healthier ones. It's that very learning process that requires time and repetition.
Long answer short, I'd do these twice a day - right upon waking and before going to sleep - for 5 weeks minimum. Then (and only then) would I make a judgment call and decide whether or not they are beneficial for me.
Are breathing exercises safe?
If you have never practiced any sort of mindfulness or breathwork, starting a daily breathing ritual may seem intimidating. However, breathing exercises are one of the safest forms of therapy out there. Little to no downside with unlimited upside potential; that's the best investment of 3 minutes a day most of us will ever have the chance to make in our lives. The first few times you perform a breathing exercise, you may feel slightly light-headed or you may notice some tingling sensations in various parts of your body. Nothing to worry about; that's 100% normal and will go away with time and practice. If anything, try to enjoy the feeling; it is quite pleasant.
What are the benefits of deep breathing?
Deep breathing might be the quickest and easiest way you have to reduce stress and improve your overall health. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been employing breathwork for centuries as a way to heal and energize the body. In yoga, the breath is used to induce a mental state of calm, relaxation, and mindfulness.
In Western medicine, breathing is a relatively new topic scientists are only now starting to look at. Research would have probably been much more advanced by now if pharma companies had figured out a way to earn profits from it. However, practicing a regular deep breathing routine has been associated with many benefits, such as:
- lowering blood pressure
- improving lung function
- encouraging weight loss
- relieving stress and anxiety
- helping sleep
When it comes to your health and performance, breathing exercises are the low-hanging fruit that many fail to take advantage of. Why spend hundreds of dollars on drugs and therapy when one of the most powerful treatments for anxiety is available to you for free and on-demand.
The 3 guided-breathing exercises above take less than 3 minutes to complete. For most of us, this is hands-down the best investment of time we will have the opportunity to make in our lives.
Here's your prescription to upgrade the quality of your mood, health, and thoughts. Choose one exercise out of the three listed above and run it twice a day for 5 consecutive weeks.