4 Types Of Pranayama For Anxiety And Depression

Learn to breathe the right way with Pranayama.

Is anxiety getting you down? Breathe your troubles away with Pranayama.

When you are undergoing a stressful situation, your body responds to this stress by releasing pheromones that cause you to feel fear or a sense of impending doom. This response is referred to as anxiety, and it is the body’s natural response to situations of high stress. However, if your concern is extreme enough to impede your ability to function normally and is constant, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are often debilitating and affect your daily life, be it work or study.

It may even impede you from doing basic tasks like buying your groceries or attending social gatherings. In recent years, anxiety has been on the rise, with 1 in 3 young adults from the ages of 13 to 18 experiencing anxiety. These numbers only continue to rise. Anxiety is also a leading cause of increased hospital admissions and suicide rates amongst teenagers and adults alike.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama for stress and anxiety

A pranayama is an ancient form of Yoga that relies on meditation, restraint and breathing to bring about emotional and mental wellness. Pranayama is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Prana,’ meaning life, and ‘Ayama,’ meaning control.

Pranayama brings about a calming sensation, which helps those suffering from anxiety. It calms the nerves and significantly reduces stress levels.

In addition to this, it also brings about increased emotional awareness, attention, and concentration. Pranayama for anxiety and depression is one of the most effective methods today.

How does Pranayama work?

In the ancient Indian form of Yoga, ‘Prana’ or life represents energy, life, heat, and magnetism.

Practicing Pranayama focuses on breath control, which directly affects the centers of the human brain that are responsible for the processing of emotion, awareness, stress, and restraint. By controlling your breath, you can directly influence how your brain reacts to stress and control your emotions.

The Pranayama trains the lungs to significantly improve their capacity, which allows you to take deeper breaths. This affects your central nervous system, which is essential to your circulatory system and respiratory system.

How is Breathing connected with Emotions?

When you practice the Pranayama daily, you improve your lung capacity and develop control over your breathing. This facilitates you to take bigger, deeper breaths at a higher frequency.

When you develop control over your breathing, you can directly control your feelings. For example, the body’s natural response to stress is erratic, fast-paced breathing, whereas when the body is in a relaxed state, you take slow breaths. By taking deep, slow breaths, you can convince your body that you are comfortable and reduce your stress and anxiety.

4 Pranayama For Anxiety

1. Pranayama 1- Kapalbhati

Kapalbhati is a form of Pranayama during which you sit in an erect position. Your hands are placed on your knees with your palms open. Following this, take a deep breath, pulling your stomach towards your spine. Slowly relax your stomach, allowing the air to flow into your lungs naturally. Repeat 20 times.

This form of Pranayama helps to improve metabolism, aids weight loss, improves lung capacity, strengthens your lungs, improves digestion and blood circulation, energizes the nervous system, rejuvenates the brain, and uplifts your mood.

2. Pranayama 2- Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana is another form of Pranayama, often referred to as Alternate Nostril Breathing. The phrase Nadi Shodhana is derived from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘Channel’ and ‘Purification,’ respectively.

The main aim of the Nadi Shodhana is to clear and purify the mind and body to achieve balance. To perform this Pranayama, first, take a deep breath followed by a slow exhale. Form a ‘Vishnu Mudra’ with your hands by folding your middle and index fingers towards the base of your right thumb.

Use your thumb to close your right nostril. For your left nostril, use your ring finger. Inhale through your left nostril while closing your right nostril. Following this, exhale through your right nostril while closing your left nostril. Repeat this process twice.

3. Pranayama 3- Anulom Vilom Pranayama

kapalbharti as a stress reliever
  • Seat in Padmasana (if you are not comfortable with Padmasana, you can seat in Siddhasana position – see image below).
  • Close the right nose trail with your right hand thumb.
  • Inhale very slowly from your left nose trail
  • Release your right nose trail and close your left nose trail with ring and middle finger of same hand.
  • Exhale slowly from your right nose trail
  • Now, inhale from your right nose trail and release your left nose trail.
  • Close your right nose trail with your thumb and exhale slowly from your left nose trail.
  • Repeat this process for 10-15 minutes (you can take break and keep repeating this process as per your convenience).

4. Pranayama 4- Bhastrika Pranayama

  • Seat in Padmasana (if you are not comfortable with Padmasana, you can seat in Siddhasana position – see image below).
  • Close your eyes and take deep breath from your nose trail
  • Breath out quickly from your nose trail
  • Repeat this process for around 2-5 minutes.

Other Benefits of Pranayama

1. Decrease High Blood Pressure

pranayama high blood pressure

Pranayama allows you to take deep, conscious breaths, which tricks your mind into thinking that you are in a relaxed state of mind. There is a reduction in the production of the stress hormone cortisol in your body by doing this.

This, in turn, lowers your stress levels and, thereby, your blood pressure. Practicing the Pranayama also significantly reduces your body heat, indirectly influencing your blood pressure.

2. Support Lungs System

The Pranayama allows you to take control of your breathing. Daily practice can help you strengthen your lungs and improve your lung capacity.

An improved lung capacity allows your body to take bigger, deeper breaths, thereby positively affecting your respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems.

3. Better Sleep Quality

pranayama for better sleep

Often, when you suffer from anxiety, stress, or high blood pressure, you face various sleeping problems such as insomnia, interrupted sleep, or light sleep.

Due to this, you may feel exhausted during the day. Pranayama helps reduce anxiety and stress by helping you gain control over your breathing. This facilitates deeper, uninterrupted sleep.

4.Cognitive Thinking

Practicing Pranayama directly affects the centers in your brain that control emotion processing, stress, concentration, and awareness. Practicing Pranayama daily allows you to train your mind to process emotion better, reduce stress levels, and concentrate more deeply.

Your general awareness also increases significantly. Hence, your cognitive thinking abilities improve dramatically.

As the world evolves and grows, humanity is faced with stress and anxiety like never before. In today’s day and age, poor mental health is the leading cause of suicide among the youth and adults alike. Hence, actively promoting mental health awareness and taking steps to combat conditions like anxiety is of utmost importance.

Breathing exercises for anxiety and depression have proven to be the most effective and natural methods of promoting good mental health. Therefore, next time you feel overwhelmed with anxiety or stress, take a deep breath, sit down, and practice the best solution to an otherwise helpless situation- Pranayama.