Welcome back to the anxiety blog! I am back this week, trying to provide tools to manage stress & anxiety in this over-stimulating world. I hope everyone is having a great Fall! I am LOVING the change in temperature, but trying not to get too attached…because attachment to things that are changing causes suffering. I know, I know, I say that almost every post, but it happens to be my FAVORITE lesson from the Yoga Sutras. I admit it, I am a yoga philosophy NERD! And I accept this so that I do not suffer…ok, ok, I am done with philosophy references.
I have been studying yoga for years, but it is so easy to forget simple practices and philosophies when we are busy, stressed, or overstimulated. Just recently, I realized that my deep breathing practice has diminished a bit. I have been spending more time driving to clients, letting my brain run, and run, through checklists and plans to make sure that I am on top of it all. Inevitably, what happens to me after about two weeks of this routine, is burnout. It doesn’t matter if I am seeing four clients a day or eight. I get too many ideas and I get over stimulated with coffee, emailing, social media, you name it, and, BOOM, I am an inflamed, tired mess. You would think a Yoga Therapist would have this all figured out, well NEWS FLASH, I do not. Practice makes practice and I am 100% human being (but maybe I’m 10% mermaid?)
I realized over the last week that I am holding my breath and breathing shallow pretty frequently. This is one of the biggest recipes for anxiety. When we breathe shallow, or into the chest area, we are not getting much oxygen in, and we are maintaining sympathetic nervous system dominance, that “fight or flight” system. This perpetuates stress by releasing hormones like cortisol and the body gets so tired after so many hours of this pattern! So, the solution sounds super basic and easy, but this is not a scam, I promise! JUST . BREATHE . DEEP. Inhale through the belly, expanding it like a balloon, and out through the belly, exhaling every last bit of breath while contracting the stomach muscles.
In yoga, breath is our “life force.” The Sanskrit word for breath-work is “pranayama,” and is translated to mean “life force.” It makes total sense, because without our breath, we would be dead. Breathing deeply each day benefits your mood, digestive, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems. It oxygenates every cell and creates more space in your body and your mind. This is why you are constantly being told to breathe in a yoga class. It isn’t just some weird ritual, but it is one of the most powerful tools that you can have in your toolbox.
Once I started breathing deeply again, my whole situation shifted from lethargic, inflamed, and negative, to: energetic, inspired, and joyful. Deep breathing can be done ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE! You can take deep breaths as you commute to work, or drive your kids to their activities. You can deep breathe when your boss is yelling at you, or when you’re reading a difficult email. You can deep breathe when you are out walking the dog, looking at the trees, a wonderful way to get into meditation! The options are ENDLESS but the point is to breathe when times are tough, so that you can change your stress response over time. This is the first tool I used to overcome my chronic fatigue syndrome and suicidal depression/anxiety. Deep breathing is sensational. Here are a few different styles that you can try:
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: The most basic form of deep breathing. Just sit in a comfortable position or lie down on your back. Inhale and expand the belly out like a balloon, exhale and contract the stomach muscles back in. Try for 5 rounds and try to increasingly inhale longer, and exhale longer.
- Prolonged Exhale: This method is shown to decrease stress fast by activating the vagus nerve. Just like in diaphragmatic breathing, inhale and fill the abdomen with breath, exhale and release more breath than you inhaled. So, if you inhale for 7 seconds, exhale for 8,9, or 20 seconds. Squeeze every last drop of breath out.
- 3-part Breathing: Place one hand on the belly and one on the chest. Inhale, fill the belly with breath, continue inhaling and see if you can bring the breath up to the side ribs, now to the chest. Exhale out from your chest first, then your side ribs, then your abdomen. Repeat up to 10 rounds.
There are so many more ways to breathe, but why not get started with one of these? Next time you are feeling stressed, activate that deep breath and imagine your nervous system totally relaxing. When you deep breathe, you are essentially sending signals to your nervous system that it is safe, and you can relax!
Try deep breathing while eating your meals, doing labor around the house, and listening to a loved one speak. The breath keeps us in the present moment, and out of “fight or flight,” anxiety. Activate your life force and start living again!
I would love to hear how you all are doing with these breathing exercises! Can you set a goal for this week? Maybe start breathing right when you wake up, just 3-deep breaths to start the day? I am here for you!
If you are local to Aldie, VA, I will be adding 4 yoga offerings to my weekly schedule at Exhale Studios in Stone Ridge, VA. Come and check out this beautiful space. Taking yoga classes are a great way to start deep breathing more often!
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My mother, Dana Siegel, & I will be participating in the Holistic Energy Expo in November in Ashburn, VA! Come and see us and check out all of the other amazing vendors and health & healing practitioners! Save the date for November, 3, 2019 and click below for more info!
Sending you love & healing vibes,