I’ve found myself plagued by a new, not-so-great stress response over the past 6 months: I have trouble breathing.
I just can’t seem to get enough air to come into my lungs. And I always knew it was anxiety-related but I went to the Dr anyway to get a fresh bill of health, so I could stop worrying about it being something more serious.
So yeah, I was told I’m as fit as a show pony. There’s nothing physically wrong with me to attribute it to which is surprising, considering one of my biggest addictions used to be smoking.
My lungs are good. My heart is A-OK. Everything is copacetic when it comes to my body.
Except for the fact that I can’t f***ing breathe.
I remember when I was younger (think early-20s, when I knew everything and had that youthful narcissistic glow) and people would say, “you know…the best thing for anxiety is to breathe.”
I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to tell them to f*** off. It just seemed too obvious and simple. And at that point, life had proven to me that there was nothing simple about it.
How could breathing stop anxiety? How could taking deep breaths stop this thing that I had been medicated for since I was 15? It just didn’t seem to be in the realm of things that were possible.
Long story short, I came to learn that the obvious was the answer. Although it’s not always as simple as just breathing in and out, coming back to your breath does help you calm down when things start to spin out.
I’ve been blessed to have been introduced to some new ways to use breathing to transform anxiety over the past year, and I’m going to share them with you.
These breathing techniques directly address an anxious state and they work.
Breathing Technique Number One
I shared a video from Dr. Hew Len with my newsletter subscribers recently. In it he offers a guided meditation focused on connecting with the subconscious (or inner child.) This video was recommended to me by my psychologist and I found it to be extremely beneficial for not only tackling subconscious disconnection but for the breathing technique towards the end (around the 12:50 mark.)
This technique is next level in dealing with breathing issues related to anxiety. It helps to disperse your breath, allowing you to feel your breath expand within your body. It worked really well for because it alleviated the panic associated with not being able to get enough air. Check out Dr. Hew Len’s breathing technique.
Breathing Technique Number Two
Though I’m not the girl who is contorting herself into unimaginable positions in a yoga studio every day, I do identify as a yogi. I do it every morning and take class as much as possible.
I also strongly believe that healing takes place on a yoga mat and that everyone can benefit from it – particularly the folks who say it’s not their kind of thing. 😉
There is always something to learn about yourself in a yoga class. Even if the routine is somewhat similar to the last one, you still come out with a lesson about your body or mind.
Ujjayi breathe was one such lesson.
Pronounced Oo-jai, Ujjayi breathing is an ancient yogic technique associated with Hatha flow yoga. Praised for its ability to calm the mind and body and balance the respiratory system (to name a few), I can’t say enough good things about it: It works for anxiety, It’s free, It’s accessible any time of day, and it doesn’t require a prescription.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on how to do it, which is why I’ll tell you The Chopra centre website has a really great article that speaks more completely to the benefits of Ujjayi breathing and offers an explanation on how to do it. You can check it out here. But it’s most definitely something I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with anxiety.
In fact, I’d recommend both of the breathing techniques I’ve mentioned here to anyone and everyone. We all have stress that leads to anxiety, it just manifests in different ways and to varying degrees of intensity.
The health benefits associated with techniques like these far outweigh the negative side effects of the stress blockers society suggests we use. Namely drinking, smoking, prescriptions, overeating, overspending, being judgemental, displacing our frustration by breaking shit or being jerks, etc, etc.
The main take away for me when it comes to using breathing techniques for anxiety is that we have more power than we think we do. Anxiety is something we can very much control if we learn how to.
What works for me may not work for you. Or perhaps it will one day, but you’re just not ready to try it. I get that. I respect the need for someone to be ready to change. Everyone has to do things on their own time.
But I know we are taught that the ability to quell our anxiousness resides outside of ourselves and that is simply not true.
Pharmaceutical companies market to our fears – our anxiety – telling us they can fix it, and our Dr’s affirm that falsity when they write us prescriptions.
Then we imprint our souls with the belief that we are helpless when we turn to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol because the prescriptions don’t work. (In my case, the prescriptions I took contributed to my alcohol and drug abuse.)
I don’t want you to suffer the way I did or continue to suffer the way you already are. So please consider that the answer to the question, “How do I deal with my anxiety?” is within you, and has been all along.
The answer resides in your breath, and the breathing techniques I’ve shared with you here can help you find it.
I see you. I feel you. I care about you.