ARC Blog

Breathing In

Break the Bond of Anxiety

So many times I have arrived in a place with my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth, clenched jaw, a tight throat, tension at the base of my skull, with halted breath. What brings me to this place of discomfort? Worry. Am I going to get through my to-do list today? What’s my day going to be like tomorrow? What’s life going to look like in the future?  Whatever label you’d like to put on it; anxiety, worry, overwhelm, stress, or fear, are all the same feelings that arise in both body and mind.

Some of those symptoms can be tension in the body; unable to think clearly, fatigue, increased heart rate, shallow breath, restlessness, digestive issues, and so on. For me, the first thing that comes to my rescue is bringing my attention to my breath.

Conversations with myself in times when I feel overwhelmed typically go like this:

Hilary, take notice of how you are breathing. Are you breathing or are you holding your breath?

Holding. Okay. Breathe. 

Where are you feeling your breath? 

In my chest. Okay. Take the breath to the belly.

Are you able to place one hand or both on your lower belly?

Okay, Hilary, you can do this.

Place both hands on your lower belly. Now that you are here, take a big breath in through the nose feeling your belly expand like a balloon being filled with air, now slowly let it out through the nose. 

Again, breathe in through the nose feeling the belly expand, let it out through the nose feeling the belly fall in.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

Now take notice of how you are feeling. 

Where is your mind? Is it in a calmer place? How does your body feel? Does your body feel a little lighter, more relaxed? 

Good job, Hil.

Breathing Techniques

Not only does diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) in the time of stress slow your heart rate, it reduces stress hormones and can create a feeling of calm, or a sense that everything will be okay.

Belly Breathing

Ready for this one? Lion’s Breath. You can be sitting just about anywhere. Take a big breath in through the nose, and let the air out of your mouth with force as you stick your tongue out and down towards your chin. Add in one more thing to the out-breath by keeping your head where it is and looking up with your eyes. You’re shooting your eyeballs up as you rockstar your tongue out. Give it a try. Go on, you can do it. Even if it makes you feel silly, it still does some good. If your face has been tight from stress or anxiety that probably felt like a really big stretch in the tongue, jaw, and eyes. It can do wonders to take the brain from the thinking mind to the body. 

Lion's Breath

By focusing on the body one can become more aware of the present moment. I can see my body, I can feel my breath. Turning our attention to the breath can take us out of the amygdala, our fight or flight mode, and into our prefrontal cortex, activating our relaxation responses.

There are many breathing techniques to try. A few more I have found helpful is alternate nostril breathing, 4-7-8, and box breathing. I encourage you to try one out and see how you feel afterward. This can be when you are feeling anxious, or when you are already in a relaxed state. 

Breathing Helps the Brain

As a side effect of learning breathing techniques, you will be gaining self-awareness and I believe that’s big in decreasing the duration of panicked moments. You will be retraining your brain to respond differently to stress. Understanding how you respond to anxiety can help you lessen the severity of the episode. After much practice, I have felt that over time it has become easier for my brain to go right to my breath when feeling overwhelmed. It seems more like it is a natural response now.

It takes time, I’m not gonna lie. But it is well worth your time to create a better mind-body connection. There are so many health benefits to strengthening the mind-body connection like a strengthened immune system that enhances the body’s ability to heal, decreased pain, better sleep, and most importantly, a sense of control and overall well-being.

Mind-Body Connection

What is the mind-body connection? The mind-body connection is the interrelationship between our minds and bodies. The mind contains our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes which can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In turn, this also holds true for how our bodies affect our minds. What we do with our physical body, for example, what we eat or how we move or don’t move our body, impacts our mental state. 

Be Kind to Yourself

I incorporate different breathing practices into my daily routine to bring peace into my life. This allows me to feel grounded and in control of the compass of my existence. Isn’t that what all sufferers of anxiety want? To not feel worried, in a constant state of fear and discomfort? To feel set free from the bonds of anxiety? Take five minutes out of your day to focus on yourself. How are you feeling in your body? Tune into your breath.  

Be kind to yourself. This amazing sense of well-being can bring a whole lifetime’s worth of equanimity. May peace surround you as you go about your day.

Hilary Tudor is a certified yoga teacher who specializes in one-on-one yoga mentorship. Whether in person or online, she explores all aspects of yoga with her clients including movement and yoga philosophy. Currently training to be certified in Yoga Therapy, she has already started to impart her knowledge with clients taking a whole-body, whole-mind approach. You can connect with her through email at [email protected] and through social media @themindfullifellc on Instagram.
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