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Wellness
Published Tuesday May 19, 2020 by Shanila Sattar

Top Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Depression and The New Normal

Meditation
Renewal
Personal Growth
Expert Advice

Inhale. 
 
 
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last few weeks is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves. 
 
 
Exhale. 
 
 
Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.  


Long-term anxiety and stress can harm our bodies 

During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised. 
  
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be incredibly damaging to your health, even if it is a small amount of stress that collects over time. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood, energy levels, and much more.  


We are holding our breath

Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Guilty? 
  
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.  


Breathing exercises can reduce stress and anxiety

The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended breathwork not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion, alkalizes the full body, and much more. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals—some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to pump up and energize


Top breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and stress 

It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. We can do these anytime, anywhere. 
  
If you’ve been feeling any small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, now is the perfect time to incorporate some incredibly easy and effective breathwork techniques into your day-to-day. 


Belly breathing 

This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out. 

1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area. 
 
 

2. Take a big breath through the nose and PUSH your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest. 
 
 

3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and constrict your belly inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.  
 
 

4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds. 
 
 
  
  

6-7-8 Breath 

The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.  
  
1. Close down your eyes. 
 
 

2. Relax your mouth. 
 
 

3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace. 
 
 

4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds. 
 
 

5. Pucker your mouth and exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds. 
 
 

6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, or as long as you wish. 
 
 


You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music. 


The Box Breath 

This is another easy technique that can be done at any time of the day. 

1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose. 
 
 

2. Hold for 4 seconds. 
 
 

3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose. 
 
 

4. Hold for 4 seconds. 
 
 

5. Repeat at least 5 times. 
 
 

You can play around with the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, and so on to see what works best for your body.

These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As we’re adjusting to the new normal, let’s all contribute to creating peace both inside and out. 

If you'd like to try a guided breathwork class with me, find one that works with your schedule! For other breathwork classes, browse Mindbody

Shanila Sattar
Written by
Shanila Sattar
Founder, AlwaysPlay Studios
About the author
Shanila is a sound healer, breathwork coach, women’s researcher, and speaker. She trains sound healers and breathwork facilitators through her mobile studio, AlwaysPlay Studios, and is the founder of the Integrative Wellness Leaders based in Los Angeles. She practices integrative wellness - considering a person's emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Her background is in tech, having co-founded an award-winning web agency, and in women’s research, specifically in mindsets, implicit bias, perfectionism, women's health, and societal experiences supported through the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, and several universities. She has implemented several health and wellbeing programs in underserved populations throughout Los Angeles. Shanila mentors women who are wellness entrepreneurs and on their confidence journey.
people in upward dog practicing yoga on mats
Fitness
Published Wednesday Jul 28, 2021 by Bree Lewis

Sweat Redemption: 5 Tips for Getting Back Into Your Hot Yoga Practice

Yoga
Fitness
Expert Advice

If you’ve ever taken a hot yoga class, you know it’s always going to be one thing—outrageously hot. Not the “let’s hang by the pool and get that sun-kissed glow” kind of hot either. I’m talking that “I can't believe I have this much sweat in my body” and “I may or may not pass out” kind of hot. It’s nothing to mess around with, and after a year or so of not being able to go, it’s easy to forget just how serious that heat can be.

To get the maximum enjoyment and benefits out of your heated yoga classes, you need to prepare yourself before and take care of yourself afterward. Luckily, I’ve been taking some classes (sweating enough for the both of us) and I’ve listed my five favorite must-dos to help you readjust to your heated classes and get back to the hot yoga summer that we all want.

1. Go at your own pace

Heated classes are difficult in nature. The normal difficulty of regular poses is mixed in with the added challenges of sweating and dealing with the humidity and the heat (at times, I’ve seen the thermostat climb to 108 degrees—yikes!). Depending on what type of yoga class you’re taking (sculpt, Bikram, power vinyasa), the difficulty level and temperature are going to vary. It’s also important to remember that each person in the room is going to practice in a way that’s unique to them. Hours slept, hydration levels, food intake, and different lifestyles are all contributing factors that make our practices different. What you practice on your mat is your own––trust your body and only do what feels right to you.  And remember, it’s okay to take breaks!

2. Hydrate like your life depends on it (honestly, it might)

The rise in temperature mixed in with the humidity that we all know and love creates the perfect recipe for sweating—like A LOT. You go into a heated class dry and come out feeling like you just took a dip in the pool. Before heated classes, I had no idea it was physically possible to sweat that much. If you’re going to a heated class, especially after a long break, it’s easy to forget just how much you might sweat. Is it possible to lose that much water if you haven’t consumed it first? Trust me, going into your heated class super hydrated is going to make a world of difference and help you feel good throughout your practice. And don’t forget to take some sips of H2O while you’re practicing!  

3. Nourish your body

Heated classes are challenging, but I can’t stop going. Nothing quite compares to overcoming the challenge— and experiencing the cleanse my body feels after I’m done. It’s the perfect blend of hard and rewarding, but I couldn’t do it if my body wasn’t properly nourished. On the days I know I have a heated class booked; I like to make sure I am eating right. I make sure to take my vitamins and fuel my body with fruits, vegetables, and my favorite superfood shake. I hold off on food about an hour before my practice, so I feel comfortable. After the class, I like to replenish with a big protein shake (boosted with collagen to aid with muscle recovery and skin elasticity). There is no one-way path for properly nourishing your body but making sure you’re fueled for the challenge of a heated class is essential for getting the most out of your practice and feeling good on and off your mat.

4. Replenish those electrolytes

Increasing and maintaining your water intake on the days you take a heated class is important, but sometimes you need something a little extra. If you’re sweating that much, you’re basically an athlete (at least in my book) and if you’re performing like a rockstar yogi, you need to hydrate like one as well. That means replenishing those lost electrolytes. Reward yourself and your body for the hard work and treat yourself to your favorite drink. I switch off between electrolyte-boosting drinks and coconut water depending on what I’m in the mood for that day. Adding these to my post-practice self-care routine has helped me feel more hydrated after and ready to take on the world again after especially sweaty classes.

5. Bring the right equipment

Usually, a yoga mat is all you need for your practice––but heated classes are a different ballgame. I’ve gone with just a mat, and I’ve slipped all over the place. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having sweat drip all over the place while you’re trying to hold a pose that makes you grip your mat for dear life (never again). Make sure you bring a towel to place over your mat, this will help with support and grip. Bringing a smaller towel is also a good idea. You can use the smaller towel to dry yourself off during water breaks or whenever you’re feeling just a bit too sweaty. This is a small step that makes a world of difference during those super-hot classes.

So, there you have it. Five of my favorite tips (more like lifesavers) that have helped me readjust to those heated classes I love so much. Getting back into it is a challenge for us all, so know you’re not alone. No matter where you’re at in your practice, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself––celebrating your health and your body’s ability to do what you love. We’re all just getting back out there, together.

Ready to jump back into your hot yoga routine? Browse Mindbody to find the perfect class for you

While you’re at it, check out some Intro Offers near you that can help you get back to your cadence of hot yoga classes.

bree lewis headshot
Written by
Bree Lewis
Marketing Content Associate
About the author
Born and raised in a small mountain town just south of Yosemite National Park, Bree is an avid lover of health, wellness, and connecting to the outside world around us. As a Cal Poly English major alumn, she has a knack for books, writing, and all things words. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, drinking craft beers, and keeping life jazzy!