People suffering anxiety often focus on fearful thoughts of losing control or going crazy. Thoughts can trigger anxiety but it is the body's response to the threat conveyed by our thoughts or our senses that accounts for anxiety. In other words, anxiety is the felt sensation of our body reacting in some distressing way. Some of those reactions include: increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, choking sensation, tightness in chest or elsewhere in body, nausea, dizziness, numbness, chills or hot flushes. Fortunately, it is through breath therapy that we have a means to calm our body and relieve the pain.
Breath therapy is a kind of mindful breathing whereby in different ways one focuses on breathing and simply notices it. This kind of breathing connects to chi, the body's powerful healing energy. It is connection with chi that gets lost during anxious episodes. Mindful breathing reasserts chi connection. And as this happens it can evoke a warm tingling or a subtle vibration as it eases pain, accelerates healing, calms respiration, clears the mind, soothes the spirit, invigorates circulation, improves digestion, and contributes to restful sleep.
Yogis have known this for centuries as have informal meditators, reiki practitioners, acupuncturists, body workers, osteopathic physicians, and other holistic health care providers. But you do not have to be a yogi practicing for years to learn these powerful breath techniques. Here are three examples:
Mindful Breathing--gently place tongue at above back of front teeth and rest it there with mouth gently closed. This is called the "yoga position." It closes the energy circuit in the body protecting against dissipation of healthy energy. Focus on your breath cycles--breathing in, breathing out. Notice points at which one phase changes into another. Do not force this, just notice for ten cycles.
Letting Self Be Breathed--Lying on back, close eyes, arms at rest along side of body. Image the following: with inhale--the Universe is blowing breath into you, with exhale--the Universe is withdrawing breath from you. Allow yourself to be a passive recipient of this interaction. Hold your perception for ten cycles. As the Universe breathes into you try to notice your breath penetrating ever part of you down to your toes.
Bellows Breath(stimulating breath)--eyes closed, sit comfortably, back straight, tongue in yoga position. Rapidly breath through nose. Action of chest should be rapid and mechanical, like a bellows. Breath should be audible both during inhale and exhale and as rapid as three cycles per second. If comfortable, engage for fifteen seconds, increasing by five seconds until you are up to a minute. After each cycle breathe normally. This is real exercise and you might feel some muscle fatigue in chest, at the base of your neck above the collar bone and in the diaphragm. You will also begin to feel a subtle but definite movement through your body when you return to normal breathing. Use this breathing method when tired.
With breath therapy the more you engage with your breath the more aware you become of its subtle changes and the more easily you will be able to use your breath to calm anxiety. As always, however, when contemplating working with the body, check with your physician to verify no health conditions exist that would contra-indicate breath therapy.