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Breathing Techniques to Calm the Nervous System

I used to suffer with quite intense anxiety which manifested itself in issues with my breathing. It took a long time to nurture and shift this relationship but now, taking care of the breath is the most important thing I can do for my body.

When I start to feel anxious/nervous/panicky, I return to one of these breaths and let my system start to calm down.


They are all in 'The Anxiety Toolbox' - A free resource of many of the techniques I used to bring my anxiety under control but they're so important that I thought I'd mention them here too!


When working with any Pranayama technique, please make sure you're not forcing anything. When the breath wants to move, let it move. If the counts that are written in these techniques feel too slow or too fast then adjust them to suit your lung capacity.


4-7-8 Breath.

Inhale for 4, pause for 7, exhale for 8.

This breath helps to slow the heart rate, brings our awareness back to the present moment, and calms the nervous system. Extending the exhale helps to activate the vagus nerve, activating the Rest and Digest part of the nervous system.

This breath is ideal for when you feel overwhelmed, anxious or triggered.

Box Breathing (4-4-4-4)

This breathing technique deepens concentration.

Belly Breathing


This is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. Focusing on the natural rhythm of the breath and drawing it into the belly as opposed to the chest. Inhale through the nose and exhale slowlu out of the mouth (Exhale wants to be longer than the inhale). I find it nourishing

to place my hand onto my belly to really feel the movement of the breath flowing through.



Nadi Shodaha (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Nadis are energy channels within our bodies and this breathing technique involved inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time. You can close each nostril off either simply with a finger and thumb or with a mudra (gesture). This technique is said to bring balance to the body and the mind.

Close the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril. Hold at the top of the inhale, and then close the left nostril and exhale out through the right. Inhale through the right, exhale through the left. Pause - Repeat.


Nadi Shodhana is a brilliant pranayama to practice everyday if you wanted to create a daily sadhana/practice.


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