Breathing techniques have long been recognized as effective tools to alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. With the fast-paced nature of modern life, it is crucial to discover methods that help us maintain a sense of calm.
In this article, we will explore 13 different types of breathing techniques that have been proven to relieve anxiety. Whether you're looking for quick techniques to use in stressful situations or more comprehensive practices, this guide will equip you with an array of strategies to ease your mind and find serenity.
1. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a technique that involves taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm and is a great breathing technique to relieve anxiety because it activates the body's relaxation response and helps calm the mind. When we are anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid, which increases feelings of stress and tension, and deep breathing counteracts this by slowing down the breath and increasing oxygen flow to the brain, promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation.
To practice deep breathing, one should sit or lie down in a comfortable position, place one hand on the abdomen, inhale deeply through the nose, feeling the belly rise, and exhale slowly through the mouth, allowing the body to relax. Doing this routinely is a great first step in handling anxiety.
2. Diaphragmatic or Abdominal Breathing
Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is one of the best breathing techniques and involves fully engaging the diaphragm muscle, which is located between the chest and the abdomen. In this technique, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, allowing the lungs to expand fully and air to flow deeply into the lower part of the lungs.
This type of breathing activates the body's relaxation response, promoting a sense of calmness and reducing stress while also increasing oxygen intake and improving the efficiency of gas exchange in the lungs, resulting in better overall respiratory function. Abdominal breathing is considered one of the best breathing techniques because it helps to regulate emotions, enhance focus, and promote a state of physical and mental well-being.
3. Box Breathing (4-4-4-4)
Box breathing is a powerful breathing technique for stress reduction due to its simplicity and effectiveness as it involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding again, each for a count of four. This balanced breathing pattern helps activate the body's relaxation response, promoting calmness and reducing anxiety.
To practice box breathing, find a comfortable position, focus on your breath, then inhale deeply through the nose for a count of four, hold the breath for four counts, exhale through the mouth for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle several times, allowing the rhythmic pattern to slow down your heart rate and bring a sense of tranquility.
4. 4-7-8 Breathing
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a powerful calming breathing technique that aids the mind and body through inhaling deeply through the nose for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7, and exhaling slowly through the mouth for a count of 8. This technique works by activating the body's relaxation response, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, and reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
By allowing for a longer exhale, this technique helps to release tension and promote a sense of calmness. Unlike box breathing, which involves equal counts for inhalation, holding, and exhaling, the 4-7-8 technique emphasizes a longer exhale, aiding in relaxation and inducing a tranquil state of mind.
5. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a different breathing technique sets it apart from others on the list because unlike deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, which primarily focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply, alternate nostril breathing combines breath control with nostril manipulation. The technique involves using the thumb and ring finger to close off one nostril at a time while inhaling and exhaling through the other nostril.
This alternating pattern helps balance the flow of energy and oxygen in the body, and by activating both sides of the brain, it promotes mental clarity, concentration, and relaxation. Additionally, alternate nostril breathing reduces stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, while enhancing respiratory function and promoting a sense of overall well-being.
6. Equal Breathing
Equal breathing, also known as Sama Vritti, is a simple yet powerful breathing technique that involves inhaling and exhaling for an equal duration. To practice it, find a comfortable seated position, close your eyes, then inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, then exhale through your nose for the same count, and as this pattern continues, focus on maintaining an equal length for both inhalation and exhalation.
Equal breathing helps to calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve concentration while also enhancing the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, promoting a sense of overall relaxation and well-being. Unlike box breathing, equal breathing does not involve holding the breath at any point.
7. Mindful Breathing
Mindful Breathing is an excellent breathing technique for relaxation due to its simplicity and effectiveness due to it focusing one's attention solely on the breath, enabling individuals to tune out distractions and promote a calm state of mind. This technique works by bringing awareness to the present moment and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates the body's relaxation response.
By consciously observing the breath, one can slow down breathing patterns, decrease heart rate, and reduce stress levels. Mindful Breathing also enhances self-awareness, improves concentration, and cultivates a sense of inner peace with regular practice of this technique leading to improved mental and emotional well-being, increased resilience, and better overall physical health.
8. Sighing Breath
Sighing Breath is a breathing technique that involves taking a deep breath in through the nose and exhaling with a long, audible sigh, which, as a technique, focuses on releasing tension and promoting relaxation. When experiencing anxiety, our breathing often becomes shallow and rapid, leading to increased feelings of stress so sighing breath interrupts this pattern by encouraging deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
By taking in a deep breath and audibly sighing out, it helps to release physical and emotional tension, allowing for a sense of calmness and relief. This technique also helps to increase oxygen flow, which can have a positive impact on our mental state, and makes this technique, overall, a simple yet effective method for quickly alleviating anxiety.
9. Humming Breath
Humming Breath, also known as Bhramari Pranayama, may seem unusual, but its effectiveness in alleviating anxiety lies in its unique approach which involves inhaling deeply and exhaling while producing a humming sound. The act of humming activates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for regulating the body's relaxation response, and by stimulating this nerve, Humming Breath induces a state of calmness and tranquility, reducing anxiety levels.
Similarly, the sound vibrations created during humming help to shift the focus from intrusive thoughts and worries to the present moment. This technique also encourages deep breathing, increasing oxygen intake and promoting relaxation, so although unconventional, Humming Breath's combination of humming, deep breathing, and vagus nerve stimulation make it an effective tool for managing anxiety.
10. Resonant Breathing
A great breathing technique for sleep, Resonant Breathing, also known as coherent breathing or deep diaphragmatic breathing, is effective because it involves inhaling and exhaling at a specific rhythm of around five to six breaths per minute. This slow and controlled breathing pattern activates the body's relaxation response, calming the nervous system and reducing stress and anxiety.
By focusing on the breath and extending the exhalation, Resonant Breathing helps regulate heart rate variability, promoting a balanced and coherent state while also increasing oxygen exchange, improving overall lung capacity and respiratory function. By adopting Resonant Breathing before bed, individuals can create a peaceful and conducive environment for sleep, leading to a more restful and rejuvenating night's rest.
11. Belly Breathing with Counting
Belly Breathing with Counting is a powerful technique for reducing anxiety and enhancing overall well-being because it posits that by focusing on deep inhalations and exhalations, one can activate the body's relaxation response. This method helps to regulate the autonomic nervous system, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and counting during each breath also allows for increased mindfulness and concentration, diverting attention from anxious thoughts.
Furthermore, this technique not only promotes a sense of calmness and clarity, aiding in stress reduction, but also improves oxygenation and lung capacity, promoting physical and mental health. Belly Breathing with Counting is a simple yet effective practice that can be easily incorporated into daily routines, providing immediate relief from anxiety and promoting overall respiratory and emotional well-being.
12. Progressive Muscle Relaxation with Breathing
Progressive Muscle Relaxation with Breathing may have a complex name, but it is a highly effective deep breathing exercise where, by combining deep breathing with muscle relaxation techniques, it promotes a sense of calm and relaxation in the body and mind. This exercise involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups while focusing on deep, slow breaths.
The tension and release of muscles helps to release built-up stress and tension, while the deep breathing increases oxygen flow and lowers heart rate. This combination not only reduces physical and mental stress, but also improves overall well-being making Progressive Muscle Relaxation with Breathing an excellent choice for relaxation and stress management as well as a simple yet powerful technique that can be easily practiced anytime and anywhere.
13. Visualization Breathing
Visualization breathing is a technique used to alleviate anxiety by combining deep breathing with visualization which involves closing your eyes, taking slow, deep breaths, and imagining yourself in a calm and peaceful place. By focusing on your breath and visualizing a serene environment, you can shift your attention away from anxious thoughts and physical sensations.
This practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a relaxation response in the body, and helps to slow down the heart rate, reduce muscle tension, and lower blood pressure. Visualization breathing promotes mindfulness, allowing you to be present in the moment and interrupt the cycle of anxious thoughts, ultimately providing relief from anxiety.