You can use your breath to calm anxiety anytime. Our breath has its origins in the sea and in single-celled organisms. Everything that is alive has respiration as its foundation. We all know how to breathe. We do so unconsciously, and we are so blessed to have this ability. Yet there is great power in us learning to use the breath as a conscious activity. When we are calm, even unconsciously we breathe more deeply and slowly than we do when we are stressed. As we feel the pressures in life, we tend to shorten and even hold our breath altogether when we are startled or feel threatened.
The heart beat follows the breath. So, as we experience stress in our world, our breath quickens and becomes shallower. Our heartbeat follows suit, speeding up and even becoming more erratic than regular. Then we feel this as increased chaos and discomfort in the body and we wonder, what happened? When we bring consciousness to our breathing, we can calm ourselves deeply and bring the heart beat back into its normal calmer rhythm.
A breathing technique to calm anxiety
Here is breathing technique to help bring peace into your life and calm your anxiety when you feel that tension and chaos have taken hold of you. You have a choice in how you respond to the stresses and strains that can erupt in your life. Here is one way to calm yourself and live more from a place of choosing to respond, rather than reacting to events.
Sit comfortably and let your body feel in perfect balance. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on your breath. Sense your breath as a quality of motion as you breathe slowly and deliberately, in and out. How does it move in different parts of your body as you breathe in a slow and steady rhythm? What is the quality of your breath as you begin this exercise? Consider that this might change as you move through this meditation.
Breathe deeply and evenly. Bring the air deep into the base of your lungs and exhale fully before your next deep and measured conscious breath. Do your best to keep your inhale and exhale even in duration. You are oxygenating your whole body in this exercise. No cell is left behind here. Repeat this slow, deep, even breathing.
Bring your attention to your heart beat
As you continue to breathe, now bring your attention to your heart beat. If you cannot feel your heart pulsing throughout your body, place your finger over the pulse point on your wrist and feel it there. The heart beat follows the breath. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as you also notice the rhythm of your heart. Breathe.
Now, if you want, you can begin to breathe with the heartbeat. Breathe in to a count of 4 of your heart beats. Hold the breath to a count of 4 of your heart beats. Exhale to a count of 4 heart beats. Hold the breath out to a count of 4 heart beats. Then inhale again to a count of 4 and continue breathing with rhythm of the heart. Inhale for 4, hold the breath in for 4, exhale for 4, hold the breath out for 4 beats, and continue. Continue this breathing pattern for 3 to 11 minutes.
You are not your thoughts
You may notice that the mind creates thoughts as you do this practice. Let the thoughts be there. Watch them if they come but do your best to not engage with them. You are not your thoughts. You are the witness of your thoughts. Let them parade in and out of your awareness. If you find that your attention wanders off with a thought that arises, just notice that you are following that thought and remember to come back to the breath and the heartbeat.
Meditation is called ‘a practice’ because it is just that. Practice. It doesn’t matter how many times you find yourself losing focus on the breath and the heartbeat and instead, follow a thought. What matters is how many times you come back to the breath and the heartbeat. Just continue with your focus on your breath and your heartbeat the best you can. However, the practice is in this moment is exactly the way it is. Be content. Breathe and feel your heartbeat.
The motion and energy of the breath
Feel the motion and the energy of the breath. Notice how the heart beat changes with the breath and calms as you are breathing consciously. The heart beat follows the breath. Your focus is on the breath and the beat. There is only your breath and your heart, beating to the rhythm of Life itself. You are Life in this moment. Breathing, beating, pulsing. Let the breath breathe you as you witness the peace in this simple moment. The breath is a wave on a great ocean of energy and you are riding on all of it. Right here. Right now. You notice a point of stillness and quietude, perhaps on the beat, or in between the heart beats – maybe when you suspend the breath. This still point is a great listening and resting spot. We find such peace here.
This moment can be a serene moment. You did the work and brought yourself here to this place. No matter the busyness of life or how hectic things seem to get, you always have this ability to pause and breathe slowly and deeply – consciously. The character of your thoughts and emotions is reflected in the motion of your breath.
Once you learn this calm breathing pattern and practice it regularly, you will notice when the quality of your breath changes as you go through your day – it may shorten and become shallower as you rise to the more urgent demands of your day. Here, too, you can always choose to pause and adjust your breath, lengthening and deepening it to help calm you and put you in a better position to respond to what life brings you, instead of automatically reacting. The conscious breath is always at the ready for you as your grounding and steadying force as you experience the ebbs and flows of your day.
Practice and find stability in your life
Please take this breathing technique with you into your everyday life. Put it into practice the best you can. As you find steadiness in the breath through practicing this technique, you can then take that practice with you into real life situations. As you experience the ebbs and flows of your day, and you feel buffeted by the winds of busyness and seeming chaos out in the world, you can apply this technique in moments such as these and find you are able to steady and ground yourself. After a while, you might find that you cannot imagine how you managed your life before you incorporated this conscious breathing tool into it.
For other ways to use the breath to calm anxiety, visit here.