How to Release Anxiety Using Breath

By Alina Prax
Published: March 30, 2020
Key Takeaways

Regard your breath as your best friend and ally. It’s there for you whenever you need it and the more awareness you bring to it, the better it will work for you.

Your breath is an incredibly potent healing force.


In the ancient language of Sanskrit, breath is life and is known as prana, or life force energy. This sacred energy enters us with every inhale and exits with every exhale.

It’s a powerful current of healing that we can access in each and every moment, particularly when we’re feeling waves of stress and anxiety.


Considering the current state of our world, and the fact that most of us are having to isolate ourselves and drastically change our daily routines, a lot of us are experiencing much larger and more frequent waves of stress and anxiety than before.

The ancient yogis developed sophisticated breathing techniques known as pranayama, which work to relieve stress and balance the nervous system. Some techniques are incredibly simple, while others are a bit more complicated.

Yet, each and every one of them helps us to slow down, to drop into our bodies and become grounded in present moment awareness, which naturally helps us release tension that we might be holding onto in the body and/or mind.


Here I'll share how to get instantly in tune with your body and mind when you're feeling stressed, then I'll offer three breathing techniques to try that will help dissipate your anxiety.

Start With Mindfulness

Most of the time, we don’t even know we’re breathing. We breathe automatically and without notice.

Switching over to a conscious breathing pattern instantly changes everything. We become mindful of our breath, and in doing so, we begin to relieve the kind of anxiety that accompanies an unaware way of moving through the world.

Many of us have an unhealthy pattern of holding our breath–especially when we’re stressed.

By getting the prana moving freely through the body, we can move that stress out of the body and relieve anxiety in the process. When you’re feeling anxious, it’s important to bring your attention immediately to your breath.

Use it to tap into the life force energy within you and surrounding you.

The Universe is here to guide you and protect you in times of struggle, and when you bring your awareness to your breath, you can connect to this sacred life force energy.

Read: The Power of Breath: An Introduction to Pranayama

When you get deeply present with your breath, you slow the chaos of your mind, which is where most of our stress resides. Although, stress also gets lodged into our tissues, which is why movement linked with breath is so good for releasing it.

Getting attuned to your breath also relieves anxiety by bringing awareness into the present moment. The breath is always and forever happening in the present moment–nowhere else.

When we become rooted to the present, anxieties are more likely to lift because the present moment is generally a safe one.

We’re not likely to be running from tigers in the African savanna or dodging bullets in warfare. The present moment is exactly as it should be, and dropping into this space is a great anxiety reliever.

Read: 3 Mindfulness Techniques to Help You Break the Strings of Negative Thoughts

3 Yogic Breathing Techniques to Try:

1. Complete Yogic Breath

One of the best ways to relieve anxiety with your breath is by utilizing the complete yogic breath.

For this type of breathing, bring your awareness to your breath and inhale to a count of four.

Now, hold for a count of four.

Exhale for a count of four, and then hold for a count of four.

Again, inhale to a slow count of four. Hold for a slow count of four. Exhale for a slow count of four, and hold for a slow count of four.

You can do this as many times as you like, or until you begin to feel the anxiety melting slowly away.

Read: Breathe Easy With These 5 Yogic Breathing Exercises

2. Nadi Shodhana

Breath control is at the heart of the ancient yogis’ superpowers, and they knew that in order to harness super levels of consciousness, they would have to become masters of their breath.

Another powerful technique they devised, which balances the nervous system, is the one known as nadi shodhana.

This is the one where you plug your right nostril while inhaling through the left, and then plug the left nostril while exhaling through the right. Then you inhale through the right, keeping the left nostril plugged, and then plug the right nostril while exhaling through the left.

Doing this with the eyes closed while focusing internally on the third eye is a great way to relieve anxiety, balance the nervous system, and become centered within your breath.

Read: Hidden Magic: The Power of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

3. Abdominal Breathing

This is another simple yet profound breathing technique for anxiety relief. You can do it anytime, anywhere–perhaps before a stressful event or important exam.

All you do is place your hands on your belly and inhale into it, feeling the expansion as you inhale and the contraction as you exhale.

Try slowing the breath down so that you have six or seven deep inhalations and exhalations per minute.

Doing deep breathing for 10 minutes naturally soothes your nervous system, calms the mind, and even lowers blood pressure.

Read: Dirgha Pranayama: An Introduction to 3 Part Breathing

Befriend Your Breath

Regard your breath as your best friend and ally. It’s there for you whenever you need it and the more awareness you bring to it, the better it will work for you.

Ease tension and anxiety with your own life force energy, and experience greater levels of self-trust and self-awareness as you do.

During These Times of Stress and Uncertainty Your Doshas May Be Unbalanced.

To help you bring attention to your doshas and to identify what your predominant dosha is, we created the following quiz.

Try not to stress over every question, but simply answer based off your intuition. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.

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Written by Alina Prax | Editor/Writer

Alina Prax

Alina has been an avid yogi for over 20 years. After completing her Sanskrit studies at the University of Texas-Austin, she traveled to northern India on a pilgrimage to various holy sites to celebrate. She holds a 300-hour yoga teacher certificate from Dharma Yoga, a Buddhist-based asana practice. Over the years, she has had the honor of studying with some inspiring teachers such as Richard Freeman, Shannon Gannon and the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She is thrilled to be part of the Yogapedia editorial team, helping to craft beautiful and meaningful articles about yoga and the spiritual path.

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