Can pranayama breathing exercises really help my stress and anxiety?

Woman doing breathing exercise with her eyes closed

Sometimes stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. Too much to do and not enough time, or negative comments from a family member or co-worker, or even listening to the evening news. You know you should relax and not let things bother you, but that’s easier said than done.

When you’re anxious and stressed, certain breathing exercises can calm you down. Some of these breathing exercises are known as Pranayama, a Sanskrit word for “managing the vital life force.” They calm the mind and remove tension and anxiety.

How do they do this? By balancing your “Prana,” your life force or life energy. Prana is known as “Chi” in traditional Chinese medicine. Prana is the breath of life, the breath that keeps you alive. When it goes out of balance, your mind, emotions and physical body go out of balance, too. By doing certain breathing exercises, you can get things back into balance and regain your health.

There are lots of pranayama breathing exercises, and they have different effects. They are helpful for various medical conditions. Not all breathing exercises should be done by everyone. Just as certain medications should only be taken by those who have a certain disease, breathing exercises are recommended based on the person’s unique condition.

However, there is one breathing exercise that can safely be done by everyone. It is known as alternate nostril breathing, and it’s very helpful in calming down the mind and removing tension and anxiety.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed.
  2. Breathe in through both nostrils.
  3. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril, slowly and completely.
  4. Breathe in slowly and completely through your left nostril, then close your left nostril with the ring finger and middle finger of your right hand, while opening your right nostril to breathe out. Breathe out slowly and completely through your right nostril.
  5. Breathe in again through your right nostril, then repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 for five minutes.

You’ll notice an increase in your calmness after doing this breathing exercise. You can do it twice a day, but it’s best not to do it immediately after eating.

Pranayama is meant to create vitality and increase your energy. There are specific breathing exercises that have positive effects on medical conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, fatigue, joint pain, asthma, obesity, migraine, diabetes, etc. These Pranayama breathing exercises are not recommended for everyone.

The Pranayama breathing exercises are part of the holistic system of health care known as Ayurveda, which originated in India thousands of years ago. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means “science of life.” Ayurveda’s main focus is on maintaining balance in the mind and body to prevent disorders and diseases. It’s also effective in the treatment of certain medical conditions.

For the breathing exercises to be effective, you have to do them. The key is to do them regularly, twice a day. Just a few minutes a day is a small investment for the significant benefits you’ll receive.


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