A few days ago, I noticed a Web article that claimed a good dose of stress and anxiety to be a healthy and even a necessary component of a healthy existence. Yes, we all experience some anxiety here and there. But without relaxation, daily anxiety can easily turn into anxiety attacks.

Speaking from past and very personal experiences, anxiety attacks are almost always accompanied by increased heartbeat, numb fingers and toes, accelerated breathing (hello anxiety-powered diaphragm!), sweating and a sense of derealization. The mind searches for danger and has trouble concentrating. And when the mind can’t find identifiable stressors to rationalize anxiety, it (anxiety) turns inward and makes us feel crazy and absolutely helpless. That’s why it is quite challenging to reverse an active anxiety/panic attack while it happens.

People who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks are often ashamed to talk about their experiences. Hence so many Americans rely on Prozac and Paxil – the magic pills that claim to be the only way back into anxiety-free bliss. I won’t deny the many short-term benefits of these drugs, yet no pill can cure the true source of one’s anxiety in a long run.

There IS a better way. A regular and meaningful yoga practice is a good place to start. Create a safe place within your spiritual being and acknowledge that the road to recovery will involve exploration and healing of old wounds, some of which you are not even aware of.

Practice conscious breathing such as Yoga Tune Up® Belly Breathing as demonstrated here (and find further techniques for stress relief):

This style of belly breathing is a useful daily practice, as well as at the onset of an anxiety attack. This technique down regulates the nervous system and combats stress.

Breathe in and out to a healthy, anxiety-free life. Namaste.

Check out our stress relief solutions.

Overcome stress and anxiety – Read the article.

Watch our free stress relief video.

Lana Goldberg

Lana became a devoted student of yoga since experiencing its transformational and empowering magic in her own life in the late 1990s. She is excited to share a healthy, fulfilling and graceful yoga practice with her students. Lana is a certified Yoga Tune Up® teacher who is passionate about offering people a yoga practice that eliminates tightness and lingering injuries in their physical bodies, and addresses emotional and psychological stagnation in their higher selves. In her classes, Lana looks beyond asana (physical movement) to create a spiritually rich and healing practice. She is looking forward to welcoming you to her class.

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Sebastien Noel

Ma mère faisait des crises de panique et d’angoisse, effectivement le premier reflex du médecin a été de les prescrire des pilules.Elle en a prit pendant 8 ans…8 ans.Un jour elle a rencontrer quelqu’un qui dieu merci lui a donner de bons conseils comme””bien respirer”” Depuis 4 ans maintenant elle ne prend plus de médicaments et elle aide maintenant les gens a mieux respirer en crise et eventuellement arrêter les médicaments.

Samara

Thanks for this great article! I work a lot with populations exposed to trauma who are dealing with a range of post-traumatic stress symptoms including anxiety. I find that another great breath technique to use both on a daily basis, but also in a specific situation where anxiety is triggered is Anulom Vilom or Psychic alternate nostril breathing.

Alisa Fairbanks

I like using belly breathing at bedtime, as well as in situations where I’m feeling anxious. It definitely helps calm me down and make me feel more balanced between my head and my body.

Lulu Goodman

The importance of breath and breath work cannot be touted enough. Your story gave me some insight as to how stress can seriously culminate. Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie

This is a great article…I was practicing this as I wrote the YTU Level 1 exam!

Matt Halawnicki

This is yoga.

Stephanie

This is a really great suggestion to actually pay attention to what actions are going on in your body. It helps to keep you present with only your breath, redirecting your focus from the sense of anxiety etc.

Manju Goradia

Cool….Mentally repeat rise and fall as you inhale and exhale for 5 mins…….well worth the time in terms of the rewards.

Claudia Blasimann

Breathing is such a great movement because it connects the conscious with the unconscious, or in other words: the somatic with the autonomic nerve systems. This means, on a regular basis we don’t need to think about breathing, but if we want to, we can guide our breath to up- and downregulate our nervous system. There is a little practice needed, but once you can feel how to accomodate the breath to your needs, it will help you a lot in so many ways.

Jenni

It’s so easy for people to overlook the important downregulating effects of belly breathing. It’s something that is so simple to do – we can whip this exercise out anytime and experience its tremendous benefits to our body and mind. Thanks for the reminder of why belly breathing is so important for us!

Tamar

So true, I came into the city for a seven day class and have found a lot of chaos. It takes a lot of concentration and down regulation to not let this environment over come an inner tranquility…… belly breathing is a great tool to accomplish this.

TDY

Dustin Brown

I love this style of relaxation technique. Jill seams to lead you so deep into savasana with her perfect ques . Thanks fore this post !!

Lorraine

The racing heartbeat, the sweating, the shallow breath as you experience one of these attacks has impact on the whole body. Coming back to the present by using the breath to tune in to its rhythm instead of the monkey mind is a useful tool and it not as easy as it sounds. Like anything else you have to work on it and be patient.

Gabrielle Acher

Thank you for offering a blog post about the breathe. All too often I had entered another teachers classroom domain only to find Beverly little said about the breath. Thank you for reminding me of its importance. .

Liz Lor

I learned belly breathing as a teenager to get the most air in while I was playing the french horn. Belly breathing comes easier to me than thorasic breathing but still when I’m anxious I revert to clavicular breathing. It helps me to concentrate on belly breathing and also feeling grounded in my feel and present in the moment to calm my nerves.

Arianna

This article really hits home for me. One of the reasons I came back to yoga and began to practice more regularly and seriously, was due to developing an intense amount of anxiety. While the idea of different types of breath didn’t quite make sense to me at first, with taking class more and more, I began to experience these different kinds of breath and truly reap the benefits of them, in particular deep belly breaths. I began using these techniques more outside of the classroom, particularly at night before bed, at time where my anxiety would often get really… Read more »

Marah

I love this breathing technique. I witness so many people who have trouble breathing and the belly breathing is a simple tool that helps to create consciousness for our own breathing and the positive effects it has on our system. In my classes, I would let the exhalations become longer than the inhalations and eventually introduce the full yogic breath after a couple of rounds of belly breathing. People love it!

Stephanie

Great post about breath and anxiety especially addressing panic attacks and long term solutions to them. The belly breath is really useful when teaching students that have experienced trauma and a great way to deregulate a public class. Thank you!

Gennifer Morris

The breath is the most important part of our practice. It helps us get through the uncomfortable parts on the mat as well as off the mat. I love how more research is happening and doctors are appreciating that breath is healing in itself.

Sujun

I agree that a bit of anxiety now and then is OK but self-control is very important. We have a few teachers at our studio who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks . So even when you do yoga this can still occur but each one of them has come “out of the closet” and have told people that they are definitely helped through yoga and breathing and usually can ‘control’ or prevent an attack . I like this: “yet no pill can cure the true source of one’s anxiety in a long run”

Sujun Chen

I really think that personally I like a certain level of stress sometimes even bordering on what others would call anxiety . When I want to slow down I use my breath usually in a seated position and I will definitely slow down and connect to the earth. Mindful breathing will slow and soothe my mind. I will feel the belly going out and coming in in rhythm with my breathing. It is the best way for me to slow down

Jessica Sleiman

I am one of those people who always finds it hard to just relax under stress. I can relate to the effects of anxiety, finding it hard to concentrate and do the things I need to get done. This breathing technique is a great way to set ourselves free from reality for a few minutes as we focus on deep, healthy, belly breathing. Many of us often need that reminder to just Breathe so that we can get back to our responsibilities feeling fresh and with a new, more peaceful attitude.

Yasmen Mehta

Did anyone see that interview with an Indian woman, who was pronounced dead, but made it back to life under extraordinary circumstances? She left her body, but recalls everything that was said around her. After she woke up from her coma, her cancer tumors shrunk and she has been in remission ever since. One thing that she said in her interview. “I know what caused my cancer and I know how to cure it.” There were certain stresses she was holding all her life and that manifested itself into the cancer she had. Once she understood that, she was OK.… Read more »

Katie Fornika

I can attest that my mother has found great benefit with belly breathing for her anxiety. I agree that breathing is under taught in many movement and fitness modalities out there. In addition to being sedating to the nervous system I find that taking regular time to attend to my breath helps me be present to what is occurring in any given moment. And is especially potent in bringing awareness to re-activity to certain stimulus and interactions that might take us away from our center.

Rachelle Tersigni

By far the most profound yoga practice for me aside from meditation is breath work or pranayama. If I actually manage to sit down or have a teacher to instruct me to do it I notice very quickly that there is a suspense of thought and eradication of all anxiety. In that place one can rest in a feeling of bliss. Unfortunately, this beautiful practice is under-taught and the focus I find is all too often strictly physical, with little emphasis or guidance on breath work. The first breath work I ever learned was abdominal breathing, I then learned a… Read more »

Katherine

So true; practicing this or other kinds of breath carries into the rest of my life. I’ve noticed recently that when I encounter a stressful situation my breathing often automatically switches into a relaxing yogic breath as a means of coping. The breath is an amazing and natural way to care for the whole self and the body knows it!

Cynthia Bunt-Gardner

Breath work is such a simple technique that is free, has no negative side effects and and can be used anywhere. We have to keep trying to get this information out to more people. My favorite pranayama that I was introduced to this week was Viloma. One inhalation interrupted by 3 pauses/kumbhakas followed by a gentle exhale and then inhale again only when you need to inhale.

Jona Joyce

I must say that before my wife introduced me to the Yogic Complete Breath, I didn’t have too much exposure to the deeper concepts of abdominal breathing. The more I learned about its sedative powers, the more I became interested in how I might be able to utilize it’s benefits for myself and my clients. I am a fan of using it to help me transition into sleep at night and I have enjoyed passing it along to those clients who could benefit from it’s calming potential for different anxiety issues. Thank you!

Alicia

Thank you very much for this post, I I’m so glad you share this with us. It is so true that people with anxiety disorder are ashamed to talk about it, and I know as I’ve been dealing with axiety disorder and depression for a long time. I have to remind myself everyday the importance of staying with my breath and conect to it when I’m fealing anxious. It is the most powerful tool that I have, to be able to contol it. Practissing the YTU belly breathing is a wonderful tecnique.

Giancarla

I could not agree more! So important. Through Pranayama practices I have been able to let go of my inhaler. I like to think of breathe work sort of like being able to breathe underwater, there is a little more cabin pressure but the depth as to which the breath can go and the way it floods the body and oxygenates the organs is more indulgent. The first time I noticed the efffects of what my Pranayama had done for my lung capacity was when I went for a four mile jog after not running long distance in over 5… Read more »

Anna-Marie Lawrence

I completely concur with your article. What I find so sad and quite frankly irresponsible is how many doctor’s rely on prescriptions for their patients instead of taking the time to listen. Not just with their ears but with all their senses. I suppose on a short term basis using these meds can help calm someone. But long term, are they really interested in helping the patient or are they themselves feeling overloaded and filled with anxiety to the point where they’ve forgotten themselves what there goal is with their patients. It seems so simple the act of breathing. It… Read more »

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Hilary Kimball

I LOVE the idea that yoga breathing practices can be used to treat stress and ensuing mental/psychological difficulties, as opposed to the reactive Westernized response of medicalization. Every time I hear of a friend or acquaintance who goes on medication, I think to myself “I wish they would try yoga!”

Chelsea

This was a very useful technique. I am one who suffers from severe anxiety and this practice calmed my nerves and made a noticeable difference. Thank you so much for your insight!

Roxanne

I absolutely love this abdominal breathing technique. I like the thoracic breaths as well but my favorite has to be the Complete Yogic Breath. It is the most amazing, peaceful feeling in the world and the best part is that I have complete control of it – what a great feeling! – . I was so impressed with this pranayama because I have never paid attention to my respiratory system the way that I have in the past weeks and it is allowing me to feel things that I’ve never felt – ever! The number one reason I adore this… Read more »

Laurie White

Yoga has been a life saver for me in so many ways, but specifically with panic attacks. Learning to focus on the breath & take the mind away from the debilitating fear has been a miraculous discovery and journey. The fact that we have a way to self down regulate is another amazing aspect of our incredible bodies! A tool for anytime, any place. And coupled with my new knowledge about the diaphragm in relation to the spine & nervous system, I feel even more in control.

Sara

As someone who is very familiar with anxiety and subsequent panic attacks, it’s always helpful to be reminded that the body is there to help support you even when the mind takes you running elsewhere. Coming back to the breath is the number one thing that has helped me heal. When experiencing anxiety I have noticed the shortness of breath in my upper chest. Bringing the breath deeper into my belly as the video shows effectively slows the heart rate down. This video was a great way to reflect on this technique and serves as a reminder that the we… Read more »

Ashley

Anxiety is most definitely one of my least favorite feelings. I have found that as I get older, it effects me more. I don’t get attacks incredibly often, but when I do, I never feel them coming, and don’t know what caused them. I do know though, that practicing yoga has helped me to recognize when I’m having one pretty quickly, which helps me get through them quicker. Also the yogic teachings of living in the moment definitely helps prevent them as well. This breathing exercise is GREAT though! I was feeling a little stressed, had a headache, and this… Read more »

Sonya G.

I strongly believe there is nothing wrong with having anxiety. Its an important feeling! Let me elaborate… I like to think of anxiety as “the earth calling you to come down”. When all your energy is in your head, your mind and emotions spin to the point of exhaustion. This leads us to feeling scattered, disconnected, restless, tired… But i believe this sense of anxiety as we call it, is your body calling you to come home. When you feel anxious it means you quite literally need to ground! Getting into your body by connecting with the breath is an… Read more »

Kristina

Lana-thank you for this. It’s a very relevant topic for me. I have found that recognizing the source of my anxiety is a good starting place. From there I can decide if it’s necessary or if it’s just me future tripping. Once I have identified the source, if it’s not something I can take proactive steps to change, I then validate the feeling, but talk myself down. I have found that a good breathing practice is hugely helpful to change the physical manifestations of anxiety which I need to do before I can work with the mental manifestations. I also… Read more »

Jennifer Kuan

As much as being constantly aware of your breathing helps to reduce the stress in our lives, I would add that sometimes the choices we make in our lives are the reasons we have the stress in the first place. So I would examine my life first to see sources of stress I could eliminate.

jennifer s

I take all types of belly breathing I have learned from all my teachers with me everyday, living in a busy city, with busy subways, and a stressfull with long hours at my day job, I constantly turn to my belly breathing techniques and now I can add the YTU belly breathing to my yoga tool kit.

Lisa Scandolari

This breath brings me into my centre it is so affective because most people do not breathe correctly. Bringing your awareness to your breath as well discribed in this video of Jill and Lana can make you feel calm, relaxed and centred. I have found being in Toronto these few days with all the traffic, and people I need to connect with this breath as soon as I get home after each day of YTU.

Jen G.

I recently returned from a vacation during which I was on a beautiful island, phone-less, computer-less… frankly stress-less. When I returned to the city where I lived what struck me was how much little things were adding up to stress me out. I noticed that every time the phone rang, my email pinged, or someone cut me off in traffic, my breath caught and my heart jumped just a little bit. This wasn’t anything that I would ever have noticed if I hadn’t have been free of it for a few days. I don’t have major stress in my life… Read more »

Prem

Have found this belly breathing very relaxing for myself and students especially at the beginning of class. Vivian, I like the word “drowrsal”

Melissa Tilley

So true Lana! I took a new form of transit today (first subway ride) and I wasn’t 100% sure that I was on the correct train and noticed I was also running late for my training class. I felt shortness in breath and found my shoulders elevated to my ears. My stress/anxiety of being lost, late etc. was causing a physical reaction in my breath and posture. I let out a big sigh and started to focus on some abdominal breathing. My shoulders depressed and I enjoyed the rest of my commute. I was on the right train after all.… Read more »

vivian

So simple and effective in calming the nerves. In training we also learned that having a longer exhale than inhale can create “drousal”. The opposite having a longer inhale than exhale can create arousal. By manipulating the breathe we can direct our energy or prana.