7 Best Breathing Exercises to Help You Reduce Anxiety and Panic Now

By Denise Everheart | Posted : September 10, 2020

I don’t need to tell you what Google also already knows, anxiety and panic are words that an increasing number of people are searching for ways to deal with. Just watching the nightly news can cause your blood pressure to go up as fear creeps in and the unknown becomes palpable. Without a means of handling anxieties, panic is only going to be more and more likely to happen. Thankfully I am not here to increase your stress levels; I am here to share with you the best breathing exercises to help you manage your emotions and give you stress relief. 

Here are 7 of the best breathing exercises to help you reduce anxiety and panic now:

1. Straw breath. This breathing exercise can be used for immediate relief from anxiety and panic. Straw breath is not only easy to learn, but it is also easy to remember how to do it as no counting is required. Also known as pursed-lip breathing, for straw breathing, you simply breathe in deeply through the nose then exhale through the mouth very slowly as if you are breathing out of an invisible straw with pursed lips. For a more detailed explanation including a video, click here.

2. Alternate nostril breathing. Nadi Shodhan is the traditional name from ancient Indian yoga texts for alternate nostril breathing (ANB). ANB gets its name from alternating between the left nostril and the right nostril, only breathing out of one nostril at a time using your fingers to block the other side. Nadi Shodhan can be used both before and after stressful situations as it brings balance to the mind and emotions. It is also the perfect breathing technique to use just before meditation. There are no restrictions on how often or how much you do this breathing technique. Here’s how to do ANB properly.

3. Ujjayi breath. Like straw breath, this breath has an immediate calming effect and can be helpful with both anxiety and panic. Ujjayi means victory, victory over too many thoughts aka mind stuff. Mind stuff can contribute more to anxiety and panic than almost anything else. Ujjayi breath, sometimes called ocean breath, is easy to learn and an excellent breath tool to use while in bed as you prepare to sleep. The recommended breaths for sleep are 10 only as ujjayi breath is first very relaxing, then can start to give an increase in awareness which may not help you fall asleep. During the day there are no restrictions. Click here for a how-to video

4. Square breathing. Also called box breathing, square breathing is fast becoming commonplace both online as well as recommended by many doctor’s offices. The basic instructions are to breathe to a specific count, inhaling, holding, and exhaling either in equal amounts or exhaling slightly longer to increase relaxation and then holding again. Some squares might be less square-like and more like a square with a missing corner. The exact shape doesn’t matter as much as the mindfulness matters. Click here for a simple guided video with relaxing music.

5. Bhramari or bee breath. Bee breath is very effective in instantly calming your mind down. It is one of the best breathing exercises to release the mind of agitation, frustration, or anxiety and get rid of anger. At first, glance practicing Bhramari might remind you of when you were a child and you put your fingers into your ears to not hear whatever was bothering you. But there is much more to this breathing technique. Watch this video to learn more about bee breath.

6. SKY Breath Meditation. SKY Breath Meditation, also known as Sudarshan Kriya. The SKY program takes breathing exercises to a whole new level. SKY is easy to learn over just a few hours and uses a specific breathing pattern. It is meant to be used as a daily practice for benefits including healthier blood pressure levels, reduced stress, decreased depression, enhanced immune system, reduced addictive behaviors, and an increase in the well-being hormone- prolactin. But even more amazing, in one study 71% of individuals for whom medication and psychotherapy treatments had failed experienced a 44% reduction in anxiety.

SKY Breath Meditation is more than a relaxation technique with physical and mental benefits, it is breathwork that works for you. For an introduction to the SKY Breath Meditation program, join this free online session, with a live instructor to guide you and answer any questions you might have.

7. Advanced square breathing. Also known as 3-stage breathing, advanced square breathing is only offered on the Art of Living’s SKY Breath Meditation course. 3-stage breathing works with all three lobes of the lungs. Most of us use chest breathing or shallow breathing and really don’t know enough about proper breathing. 3-stage breathing is a controlled breathing practice and can increase lung capacity as well as benefit those with breathing issues. If you like square breathing for its calming effect, you will love 3-stage breathing!

For more help with anxiety and feelings of panic, you can also add two kinds of gentle yoga. The first is Sukshma Yoga or subtle yoga. Anyone can do subtle yoga sitting on a chair in their office or at home. The other yoga you can do alongside these breathing exercises is utilizing mudras, hand yoga! Both of these practices will give you additional tools for anxiety and panic that you can use as needed.

Remember to keep breathing, inhale deeply and exhale got this!

Want to learn more about breathing exercises? Read Breathing Exercises 101: Tips and Practices to Sart Today.

Denise Everheart is a freelance writer, breath meditation coach, and recipe designer. Follow her @everheartstudio4meditation and @celeplateyourlife on Instagram.

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