The breath can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. By connecting with and slowing down our breathing, we can bring ourselves out of our heads and back into our bodies, overriding the ‘fight or flight’ response and letting the body know that it’s safe.
We sat down with breathwork expert and MindLabs instructor Jamie Clements to talk all things breathwork for anxiety.
“There are a couple of principles and exercises that can make a big difference in reducing stress and anxiety when it comes to breathwork. Firstly, focusing on breathing lightly, slowly and deeply down into your belly. This will naturally start to increase something called vagal tone, which will in turn activate the parasympathetic (rest and digest) part of your nervous system.
To go even deeper into this, you can start to extend your exhale and make it longer than the inhale, this will drive you deeper into that state.”
He also shared his five favourite breathwork exercises for calming the body and mind.
Five breathing exercises for anxiety
1. Cadence breathing
Breathe in for 3, hold for 3, breathe out for 6, hold for 3.
2. Extended exhale breathing
Breathe in for 4, out for 8.
3. Coherent breathing
Breathe in for 5, out for 5.
4. Box breathing
Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4.
5. 4-7-8 breathing
Breathe in for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8.
Want to see how it's done? Here's an excerpt from Jamie's MindLabs class: breathwork for a restless mind.
To watch the full class, download MindLabs from the App Store.