A simple way to reduce anxiety

The breath is a mighty tool for reducing anxiety. Pranayama or breathwork is a way to intentionally use the breath. By using the breath, we are able to feel how powerful the breath can be for soothing and calming the mind and body.

The Square Breath – Samavritti ratio

Benefits: This breathwork calms the mind and soothes the nervous system by focusing the mind in a positive and productive way.

Practice: Find a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit tall and relax the shoulders.

  • Begin by taking a breath in
  • Exhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the exhale breath for a count of 4
  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the inhale breath for a count of 4

Flowing at your own pace, practice square breath for a few rounds, paying attention to the quality of each inhale and exhale. See if you can maintain an unbroken quality for each cycle of breath. After a few rounds, relax and breathe as you would normally. I find that practicing for 30 seconds is a good place to start

If while practicing square breath, you find that holding the breath is uncomfortable, simply omit the retention and just breathe evenly until it feels more enjoyable to hold the breath. Over time, you can increase the square count as your lung capacity expands.

Contraindications: Never strain the breath. If you are pregnant, practice breathing evenly without holding the breath. Check with your doctor if you have blood pressure or heart conditions.

Fun Fact: The Navy Seals use this technique too! Called 4X4 breath or Box Breathing, the Seals utilize their breath to manage stress and anxiety. This ultimately comes in handy when in potentially life-threatening situations.

How to use mindfulness and ease into change.

Spring season offers a great metaphor for change. New leaves begin to grow on the branches of trees and flowers sprout up from seeds buried deep in the earth during winter. I don’t know about you, but the inner child in me pops out as if she’d been trapped indoors for months and can finally go outside and play! If you have lived in a region of the world where you are able to experience the stark contrast of the seasonal shifts, then you know what I mean! Here in California, it takes a keener sense to observe the more subtle shifts, but they are there.

The practice of yoga allows us to awaken to the changes that are occurring within. For example, I love that moment at the beginning of class when I close my eyes, drop into my breath, quiet myself and just be present because it allows me to acknowledge the truth that I am forever changing. Breathing in and out, I notice that no two breaths are the same. In the physical body, cells are dying off just as new cells regenerate. When we look closely at our thoughts, we will see that the perceptions we carry of the world inside and outside of us are always shifting. We are evolving just like the seasons and existence is a constant cycle of life and death. So, in the time we allow ourselves to be mindful at any given moment, there is a great opportunity for deep acceptance of ourselves exactly the way we are. On my journey, I have found that embracing change allows for more contentment and flexibility in the world around me.

The most
radical act
in a world
that is sleeping
and numb
is to wake up
and feel.

– James McCrae