How to Use Yoga and Breathwork to Combat Anxiety

by | Jan 9, 2023 | Anxiety, Counseling, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), Stress

How to Use Yoga and Breathwork to Combat Anxiety

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Yoga’s popularity has grown over recent years, and for good reason. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress levels and create positive growth, which we all strive for. Yoga consists of different postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and even affirmations. Not only is yoga relaxing, but it also releases physical muscle knots and this can release negative emotions and built-up tension.

Mood-boosting endorphins are also released during yoga practice to help you feel your best and help handle stress. Flexibility and movement promote balanced emotions and center the mind and body while alleviating pain and physical annoyances. There are three primary components of yoga practices: poses, breathing, and meditation or relaxation.

Here are some postures and techniques you can try out to increase your well-being!

Poses and Positions:

1. Cat-cow pose- this pose allows you to connect your breathing to your movements, which calms the mind by helping it focus on this movement.

  • Start with a tabletop position (on hands and knees). As you inhale, turn your gaze toward the ceiling and allow your belly to move toward your mat, arching your back (this is the cow pose). Then on your exhale, point your chin towards your chest, looking down, and round your spine (this is the cat pose). 

2. Child’s pose- this pose creates an inward focus and keeps the mind at peace with slow breathing.

  • Start in tabletop, then move slowly backward, sitting back on your heels. Rest your forehead on the mat or ground and place your arms on the ground above your head. Let your torso and hips sink into the ground and focus on relaxing your body.

3. Legs up the wall pose- by creating deep relaxation throughout the whole body and raising your legs above your head, this pose boosts circulation.

  • This pose is self-explanatory. Sit against a wall and rest your legs up on that wall. Lay the back of your head and torso on the ground. Lay one hand on your stomach and one on your heart and relax.

4. Corpse pose- this pose encourages whole-body relaxation and stillness and helps it let go of all pent-up tension.

    • This is one of the easiest poses in the book! Lay down and relax ALL muscles and tension, like a corpse. Let your feet, arms, and neck fall where they naturally fall. 

    Breathing techniques:

    1. Alternating nostril breathing- This breathing exercise focuses on your overall well-being by lowering your heart rate and helps you be more mindful of the present moment, and not life stressors. 

    To practice alternating-nostril breathing, use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Then, inhale through the left nostril and close the left nostril with your thumb before exhaling. Exhale through the right nostril, then close the right nostril and repeat on each side. 

    2. Lion’s breath- Lion’s breath is a powerful yoga breathing technique that helps with getting out of your mind and instead listens to your body. Lion’s breath also relaxes the muscles in your face and jaw where we tend to hold a lot of tension.

    Close your eyes and take a full, deep inhale through the nose. On the exhale, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. Empty your lungs completely.

    3. Breath extension- Breath extension is perfect for when you’re feeling anxious. It helps move energy and loosen tensions all throughout the body. 

    Start by holding your breath through your nose for five counts, then exhale deeply and let whatever sound feels right come out with the exhale. Repeat as many times as necessary. 

    4. Humming breath- This simple breathing exercise consists of a humming noise (like a hummingbird or a bee), and can lower stress levels as well as clear the sinuses. 

    Inhale for four seconds and on the exhale make a humming sound.

    5. Box breathing- Box breathing is a great method that can be practiced anywhere you are comfortable, this helps focus on your breaths and has been shown to help with anxiety attacks. 

    First, close your eyes. Then you want to inhale through your nose for four counts, hold for four counts, slowly exhale for four counts, and then hold that exhale for four counts. Repeat this until you feel calm. 

    Affirmations to consider:

    • I trust my body and I love my body!”
    • “I can breathe deep and relax into this present moment.”
    • “I inhale calm, and exhale stress and negativity.”
    • “I am worthy of taking care of my mind and body.”
    • “I am proud of myself for the progress I have made!”

    Meditation and Relaxation Tips:

    • Practice awareness, acceptance, and detachment to create positive mental patterns during your practice.
    • Learn to be present in the moment and bring awareness to your breathing patterns and movements, and not incoming thoughts and worries. 
    • Yoga provides the perfect opportunity and space to become conscious of your feelings, mind, and physical body. Take the time to find yourself and what you would like to improve, and what you are grateful for. 

    Where do I start?

    When you start yoga, your muscles need to be warmed up so that you don’t injure yourself. You can start with simple exercises and slowly move into more difficult poses as your muscles warm up and become more flexible!

    You do not have to have a fancy setup or pay for a membership at a yoga studio to practice yoga and obtain yoga’s many benefits, there are plenty of helpful yoga instructors on youtube, different exercise apps, and even yoga pose dice. Make a comfortable and safe environment in your home, and become aware of your body and mind and what it needs. Here is a  yoga mat to get started, or you can use a thick blanket!

    To discuss how therapy could help you during this season of your life, please contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation.


    Cronkleton, E. (2022, March 16). Alternate nostril breathing: Benefits, how to, and more. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/alternate-nostril-breathing#how-to  

    Jessica Estrada Jessica Estrada, & Estrada, J. (2022, November 5). 5 yoga breathing techniques to cultivate chill vibes on and off the Mat. Well+Good .https://www.wellandgood.com/yoga-breathing-techniques/#:~:text=5%20yoga%20breathing%20techniques%201%201.%20Breath%20awareness,Sitali%20breath%20…%205%205.%20Breath%20of%20fire 

    Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, December 29). Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733 

    MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Box breathing for anxiety: Techniques and tips. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318973#what-is-box-breathing 

    Person. (2021, May 4). Yoga for stress: Breath, poses, and meditation to calm anxiety. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/yoga-for-stress#how-it-works

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