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Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Feeling Anxious?

Forgotten how to breathe?

Keep Reading and try these breathing exercises for anxiety.

You may not even know it, but if you are feeling any kind of anxiety or stress, your body is likely breathing very shallowly.

(Photo compliments of

Shallow breathing is one of the early signs of stress and creates a mini hyperventilation state in our body that actually causes anxiety and increases the stress response.

Our emotions and breath are tightly linked. Have you ever noticed that when you feel anxious, nervous or upset your breathing quickens and may even become erratic? When you are relaxed and composed your breathing is slow, calm and rhythmical.

Although breath is an automatic body response that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain, we can override our breathing rate by consciously controlling it. By controlling our breath, we also learn to control our emotions and through the use of these very specific breathing exercises for anxiety, we can transform our anxiety into a state of calm and peace.

Let's repeat that last point, which is very important to understand:

"Breath control means emotional control".

Breathing Exercises for Anxiety WARNING:

If you have not been breathing deeply and fully and are in an anxious state, PLEASE be careful here.

My only Rule: Listen to your body

Only do what feels right and balanced for You. This may mean taking only 2 breaths your first time. That is ok. Next time it will be 3 breaths and you will continue to build.

Everyone is at a different place on their own, unique healing journey and it is up to you to listen to what your body is telling you before proceeding hap-hazard.

Ok, now that I've said my words of caution, lets begin...

Left Nostril Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

Sound weird to just breathe from one nostril?

Well, it isn't, just listen up...your left nostril is connected to your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and your right nostril is connected to your sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

When you are feeling anxious, your nervous system is revved up and your PNS and SNS are no longer in a balanced state. In fact, your PNS is in a sluggish state, while your SNS is in over-drive.

To bring things back into a neutral state, we can focus on breathing through one nostril, the left.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Take the thumb of your right hand and place it over your right nostril
  • Now take nice slow and deep inhales and exhales through your left nostril only.

You may find that your left nostril is a little plugged. That is ok, just do the best you can and you'll notice a difference.

If it is too uncomfortable due to the degree of plugging, try the next exercise below, and then come back to this one.

Segmented Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

In this particular exercise, the emphasis is on exhaling, because like the left nostril, the exhale is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system and it will help slow your heartbeat to bring about a state of physical and emotional relaxation.

In a segmented way, with quick 'sniffs', rather than one smooth motion, we divide the inhale and exhale into several equal parts. This will serve to stimulate the central brain and the glandular system in such a way that you will find relief from your anxiety.

For this particular exercise, do the following:

  • 4 sniffs on the inhale
  • Pause for a moment on full inhale
  • 8 sniffs on the exhale
  • Repeat

Start with a simple 3 minutes and see how you feel. If you are feeling relief and more balanced than stop.

The ideal with any bodywork or healing is to create balance and so although you have been out of balance in one direction, you don't want to create an imbalance in the other direction either.

For more information on breath, check out the pranayama yoga section of this website, or contact me with a specific question or coaching advice anytime.

Yours In Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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