Being anxious sucks. I think we can all agree on that. So here’s a few exercises that you can do to help bring yourself into the present moment, ground yourself, and leave the land of anxious thoughts.
If you have the time to do these in this particular order, I would try to do it this way. If not, do whatever you have the time for, or the props for.
360 Breathing with a Resistance Band:
When we’re anxious we tend to shorten our breath, and breathe more from our chest than our diaphragm and entirety of our lung capacity. This generally doesn’t help us get out of that anxious state. A way you can calm your nervous system is by using your diaphragm for breathing and using your full lung capacity. That means breathing in your chest, but also in your stomach. It means breathing out into the sides of your ribcage, AND the BACK of your ribcage (our back body is often forgotten in yoga! Don’t forget about it!).
A really great tool for this is a resistance band. If you don’t have a resistance band you can use a strap or scarf, but the resistance band is better because it moves with your breath. Our bodies understand movement better when there’s external feedback – this why your yoga teacher might come over (at least pre-covid) and ask you to press your knee into their hands in a Warrior 2, for example. When we feel something outside of our bodies, it allows us to feel what’s going on IN our bodies. The resistance band in this case is your external prop.
Tie your resistance band around your ribcage, and then try to move it out and in with your inhales and exhales. Here’s a quick video showing you what I mean:
You should feel pretty relaxed after that, but in case you need more or don’t have a band handy, here’s your next tip:
Block Breath Lifts in Childs Pose
The block here acts as the same idea as the resistance band – an external feedback source that allows you to understand where your body is in space. Child’s pose by itself has a calming effect on the nervous system. Generally when we can bring our head to the ground or to something (like a block), this can calm us down. Add this breath technique to your child’s pose and it will be the most relaxing child’s pose you’ve ever done!
Stick the block on your upper back and come into your child’s pose. Breathe into your back ribs – use your inhales to lift the block up, and your exhales to lower the block down. The idea here is the same as the resistance band – find the full breath capacity of your lungs in your ribs – but it has the added benefit of being in a child’s pose.
Here’s a quick video of the set up:
Once you’ve done both of these, give this next breathing exercise a try, trying to use the same full 360 breathing you’ve been exploring:
Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is my favorite breathing exercise to calm down nerves. It’s easy, quick, works well, and you can do it anywhere – no props needed.
I’m right handed, so I’m going to instruct this from that perspective – if you’re left handed you just do the opposite side than I’m instructing. Here’s the set up:
Take your right thumb to your right nostril, bend your index finger and touch the space between your knuckles to the space between your eyes, and then take your middle finger to your left nostril. Cross your left arm across your body. Rest your right elbow on your left arm and gently bring your chin towards your chest. Here’s a quick video to show you the set up:
Close your left nostril – inhale with your right nostril.
Close your right nostril, open your left – exhale out your left nostril.
Inhale through your left nostril.
Close your left nostril – open your right – exhale out your right nostril.
Inhale through your right nostril.
Close your right nostril – open your left – exhale out your left.
Inhale through your left nostril.
Repeat as much as you want. Find the 360 breathing we worked on with the resistance band and with the block in child’s pose.
This should help A TON. Especially if you do these 3 exercises in a row.
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Till next time,