How Breathing Exercises Can Calm Your Mind

 Breathing Exercises Can Calm Your Mind

How to calm your mind

You may have noticed that anytime you feel anxious or stressed, the standard advice you receive how to calm an anxious mind and body always has to do with controlled breathing exercises. This isn’t just advice that people and doctors are tossing out at you without cause.

Deep Breathing Techniques For Stress

In fact, there is a scientific reason that breathing exercises work to calm down the mind and the body. It is one of the easy and fast ways on how to relax your mind. Breathing exercises is one of the best anxiety calming techniques that you can apply. A good reason for this is that deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

The primary purpose of breathing is the absorption of oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide. When stressed, a person tends to take small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders instead of their diaphragm to get air in and out of their lungs. This breathing style causes disruption to the balance of gasses in the body. This can lead to shallow over-breathing or hyperventilation.

 

Cortisol – the stress hormone

When your body begins to feel the effects of being stressed out, your adrenal glands release something called cortisol. Cortisol is more commonly known as the stress hormone, and when your cortisol levels are elevated, there are many negative side effects.

Some of the effects of having increased levels of cortisol include lower immune function, disruptions in both the memory and the learning functions, an increase in blood pressure and an increased risk for depression and other mental illnesses.

Of course, all of these things don’t just happen because you experience occasional stress, but rather if you are dealing with stress on a regular basis and not doing anything to help reduce the levels of stress your body feels.

Another side effect of the increase in cortisol levels is that your body shifts into the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for mediating the hormonal stress response better known as the fight or flight response.

This means that when the sympathetic nervous system takes over, it has the following effects on your organs:

  • Eyes: Dilates the pupils
  • Heart: Increases the rate and force of the heart contractions
  • Lungs: Dilates the bronchioles and circulates and adrenaline
  • Sweat Glands: Activates secretion of sweat

What Happens When You Do Breathing Exercises?

When you do breathing exercises, you are breathing in a slow, gentle, and even way. When you are breathing this way, the effects of the sympathetic nervous system are minimized as the parasympathetic nervous takes over.

The parasympathetic nervous system works alongside the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are often considered opposites of one another.

However, this relationship is not antagonistic. Instead, the relationship is complementary.
Often referred to like the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic nervous system conserves energy as it reduces the levels of cortisol in the body.

You can do deep breathing exercises to lower blood pressure. The reduction in cortisol leads to a slowing of the heart rate, which in turn also lowers blood pressure and increases feelings of relaxation. Some deep breathing exercises benefits include the following:

  • A reduction in the lactic acid buildup in muscle tissues.
  • Levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
  • Improved function of the immune system.
  • Feelings of calm and well-being are increased.

Focused breathing

When we are focused on our breathing, our mind automatically becomes calmer. Since the rest of our body is being told to relax, our mind is no longer focused on all of the things that are going on in our body.

Another advantage to focused breathing is that our mind needs to focus on the act of taking slow, even, and measured breaths. This shift is focus allows our mind to clear. A clear mind allows us to approach problems with a clear mind without having stress cloud our judgment.

3 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

These yoga breathing techniques will calm your mind, your nervous system, bring mental clarity and balance your energy — all by helping you create the present moment that you want: calm and confident.

1. Elongate Your Exhales
2. Kapalabhati or Skull Shining Breath
3. Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing

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I'm Caren Baginski, a yoga instructor and writer, who teaches results-oriented yoga and mindfulness techniques to overcome self-doubt, anxiety and depression.

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