How to Decrease Anxiety in Just 2 Minutes

May 01, 2018

How to Decrease Anxiety in Just 2 Minutes

If you suffer from unexpected anxiety like so many others, or just struggle to focus on the task in front of you, Nadi shodhan pranayama will be your new best friend.

Nadi shodhan pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing as we will refer to it below, is a breathing technique which has roots both in yogic communities and the Ayurvedic medicine tradition (called the sister science of yoga). It has been practiced for thousands of years and is found regularly in led yoga and breathwork classes to this day.

It is said to bring both physical and mental balance by calming your nervous system and encouraging an open flow of prana (breath) through your body.

Woman sitting calmly breathing on yoga matMamaRoo Yoga (F4) Yoga Mat

How does it work?

By controlling and stabilizing the your breath, alternate nostril breathing balances your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) nervous system.

When we are feeling anxious, it is because our sympathetic nervous system believes we are in danger and need to survive.

Hundreds of years ago this would have saved our lives. Today, we often are not truly in danger of bodily harm, so we must retrain our bodies and minds to learn to calm ourselves and to assure our nervous system that we are okay and can handle what is coming up. This is the role of conscious breath.

Decreasing anxiety with breath

Alternate nostril breathing requires a deep focus and allows us to shift our attention from what was previously overwhelming to the task of breathing.

Through the mental task of focusing and the physical result of the fresh oxygen the practice brings, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.

When the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, we are both consciously and subconsciously reminded that we are okay, and our anxiety will lessen.

When our anxiety lessens, our mind clears, and we feel more empowered to handle what is coming our way rather than running around in circles consumed with the worry the situation can evoke.

Calmness from anxiety in upward dog yoga pose

MamaRoo Yoga (F4) Yoga Mat

Benefits of alternate nostril breathing:

  • delivers fresh oxygen to our body
  • calms our mind
  • increases energy levels
  • clears blocked energy

Follow these tips & steps to calm your mind in 2 minutes!

Quick tips before you begin:
  • We recommend starting out practicing for two minutes and even suggest setting a timer so that you can fully focus on the breathing and not worry about keeping time.
  • Begin in a comfortable seated position. If it is difficult for you to sit unsupported, we highly recommend sitting on a pillow. You can also lean against a wall if you are needing back support.
  • While practicing, you will want to allowing the exhales to be a few counts longer than the inhales. You can begin with the count of 4 for your inhale and 6 for your exhale like we guide you below and then evaluate whether that feels rushed or too slow, and choose a count that feels good to you.

You are ready to begin!

9 steps to calm anxiety graphic

  1. Find your comfortable seated position. Take a moment to get settled: focus on finding length in your spine by stacking your shoulders over your hips, release tension by softening your body, and find a few deeps breaths.
  1. Bring your right hand in front of your face, palm facing towards you. Bend your pointer, middle, and ring fingers down. Your thumb and pinky fingers are still extended.
  1. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Breathe in through your left nostril for 4 counts.
  1. Close your left nostril with your pinky finger, having both nostrils closed for a brief pause.
  1.  Open right nostril and breathe out for the count of 6.
  1. Breathe in through your right nostril for the count of 4.
  1. Close your right nostril with your thumb, having both nostrils closed for a brief pause.
  1. Open left nostril and breathe out for the count of 6.
  1. Continue this pattern for the duration of your time, or as long as you comfortably desire to.

Relaxed woman walking through flower field


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