Feeling Anxious? How to reduce anxiety with breath & posture

Feeling Anxious? You’re not alone. But did you know anxiety, breathing, and posture are all related? Which is good news for us because we can potentially use posture and breathing to reduce anxiety! Read on for some quick and easy breathing and posture ideas to tone anxiety down! Let’s get calm, and breather on!

Calm this way

You need to breathe slower

The first take away is, if you’re feeling anxious, you’re probably breathing too fast. Think of a movie scene where the nervous supporting character starts wondering “what if something bad happens”, and then they start hyperventilating. This is a classic depiction of the autonomic nervous system at work. Your Autonomic Nervous System, or ANS for short, controls a whole bunch of stuff in your body. And it basically tells your body how stressed, or relaxed, it should be. In the case of the nervous movie character, their ANS is telling their body to be VERY stressed. This causes them to start breathing faster. And the faster they breath, the more stressed they become. Creating a positive feedback loop, that only ends when they explode or when the main character tells them to “snap out of it” and hands them a paper bag.

As it turns out, a lot of us are hyperventilating (breathing too fast) for a significant portion of the day, without even realizing it! The ideal breath rate for a healthy and relaxed adult is about 6 breaths per minute. Whereas the average adult breath rate is 2 -3 x the ideal rate! This means the average adult is breathing much more than they need to at rest and are subsequently feeling more stress than they otherwise would! In fact, most panic attacks are preceded by increased breathing rates for the 24-hour window prior!

This is not to downplay anyone’s experience of stress or anxiety. But since breathing and physiological stress are so tightly linked, simply slowing down the breath could be a great way to tone anxiety down. The best part? It’s completely free. Next time you’re feeling anxious, try to make each breath cycle (one breath in and out) last 10 seconds. That totals 6 breaths per minute. Try to breath like this for 2 minutes and see how you feel! get calm, and breather on!

Posture magnifies stress

The next consideration is posture. Just like stress causes you to breathe faster, it also affects the way you hold your body. As stress ramps up the body tends to extend the spine. This is great for creating stiffness, and stability. If you need to pick up a car, for example, you’re probably going to want some spinal extension. But if you’re at the office on Monday morning, an extended spine is probably not necessary.

Just like breathing fast keeps you in an anxiety loop, so does an extended spinal posture. And if you put the two together? Well, that’s just a recipe for stress. A “stress-ipe” if you will.

Stressed at work?

What’s the solution you might ask? The opposite of breathing fast is breathing slow. And the opposite of spinal extension is spinal flexion. So, if we combine the two, we might get something like the Postural Restoration Institute’s “stair short-seated balloon” technique, which lets you get calm, and breather on!

Reduce anxiety for 5 cents or less!

The technique combines spinal flexion, with slow intentional exhaling into a balloon. All while strengthening the internal obliques and transverse abdominus. This not only helps to improve posture, strengthen the core, but it can also help reduce stress and anxiety! All you’re going to need is a short step and an empty balloon (not free, but 5 cents isn’t bad).

Stair short seated balloon
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To get the most out of this technique

  1. make sure you’re sitting on a 6-inch step (feet and knees should be as close as possible)
  2. Gently roll back on your hips, and sit “heavy on your sit bones”
  3. Gently inhale through your nose, and breath out inflating the balloon
  4. After exhaling, attempt to pause for 3 seconds with the tongue on the roof of the mouth
    1. Your tongue should prevent the backflow of air into your lungs
  5. Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth while you inhale through the nose gently
  6. Perform for 4 breaths in a row, then let the air out of the balloon
  7. Repeat for 4 sets of 4 breaths

There are a whole lot of other great benefits to this technique, which we don’t have time to get into here. But it is one of my favorite techniques to ramp my nervous system down and get my breathing and posture back on track! For more on breathing and posture you can schedule at appointment on our scheduling page or find a PRI provider near you, to help get calm, and breather on!

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