Each and every day, we are faced with stressful situations leading to heightened levels of anxiety, loss of focus and control leading to an inability to function ‘normally’. One way to overcome anxiety is with pranayama techniques also referred to as breathing exercises. Pranayama can be translated as ‘prana’ meaning life force and ‘yama’ meaning control.

Regular and consistent pranayama practice can teach us to become consciously aware of our breath ultimately helping us to connect mind and body.

alternate nostril breathing

On a personal level, I use pranayama just before a meditation to help me prepare my mind and body for the forthcoming meditation session. Aside from this, pranayama is an excellent way to promote relaxation, quickly reduce stress levels and to calm a racing mind.

Below are 3 types of pranayama that can be used to quickly reduce anxiety levels and bring back that sense of normality.

  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

It is important to maintain good posture during the breathing session; poor posture will lead to ineffective technique. You can perform these breathing exercises sitting on a chair, sitting straight but keeping your shoulders relaxed or sat cross legged, I find that sitting on a meditation cushion helps maintain good posture.

Alternate Nostril Breathing 

Take your index finger and middle finger of your right and fold them down towards the palm of your palm.  Perform the following steps:-

  1. Using the right thumb, close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril
  2. Hold for a second
  3. Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril
  4. Pause for a second
  5. Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril
  6. Pause for a second
  7. Close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril

Repeat these steps, alternating nostrils after each inhalation. Try and work up two minutes.

Abdominal breathing

This exercise is all about breathing air into your abdomen. The best position for this exercise is lying flat on your back; alternatively, you can perform this sitting on a chair. Place your hands on your abdomen, creating a sense of connectivity. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale through your nose, being aware of the air passing through your nostrils, down your oesophagus, into your lungs and the abdomen feeling it rise.

Begin exhaling through your nose allowing the abdomen to fall. Repeat this and settle into a steady rhythmic breathing cycle. Extend the technique by adding a short pause between inhalation and exhalation. Continue for as long as required.

abdominal breathing

Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

Ujjayi breath is generally used in Yoga practice and allows for a deeper stretch but also heats the body for the inside out.

Sit up nice and straight and hold either your right or left palm approximately 2 inches away from your mouth. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth making an audible ‘haaa’ sound in the back of your throat and feel your breath on your palm.

Inhale again through your nose but keeping your mouth closed, exhaling through your nose, making the same ‘haaa’ sound in your throat. Continue for as long as required.

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