This Breathing Technique Can Calm You Down Within Minutes

This Breathing Technique Can Calm You Down Within Minutes

There are many breathing exercises now but the one that seems to be one of the most beneficial is extremely simple is called Resonant breathing or Coherent Breathing.

The burden that comes with stress keeps increasing as we age. Nothing good comes out of it apart from becoming a host of many physical and mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Although we cannot always avoid the source of this stress in our lives, we can surely find ways to develop healthier habits to deal with them. One of the easiest, yet effective techniques is breathing exercises. There's one type in particular that has helped many overcome their anxiety and woes in life, including venture capitalist and author Scott Amyx.

For Amyx, it's an everyday 30-minute morning routine that he follows religiously. Understandably he is filled with anxiety before getting onstage and giving speeches to thousands of people at organizations and companies. So, he practices a breathing routine that he picked up from a sports psychologist years ago even before going onstage. "I’m able to manage my anxiety and turn that nervous energy into a powerful presentation," he said according to VICE. Even Cynthia Stonnington, who is the chair of the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, encourages her clients to engage in breathwork. 



"Many people find benefit, no one reports side effects, and it’s something that engages the patient in their recovery with actively doing something," she said explaining the reason behind it. Of course, there are many breathing exercises now but the one that seems to be one of the most beneficial is extremely simple is called Resonant breathing or Coherent Breathing (coined by Stephen Elliot). Promoted by two psychiatrists in New York City, the exercise is so easy that anyone can pick it up in minutes. It has proven to be effective for many people, even those with severe mental concerns like earthquakes, tsunamis, and genocide survivors. It is also used by veterans in at least two U.S. Veterans Administration Hospitals. 

Assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, Patricia Gerbarg and her husband Richard Brown, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons revealed that the technique has surfaced after years of studying ancient breathing practices by indigenous people around the world. "We wanted to identify a short program that could be quickly given to people, that they would have immediate relief within five or ten minutes, and that over time would produce long-term changes," said Gerbarg.



The breathing exercise can be done anywhere and it simply involves inhaling and exhaling through the nose at a pace of five complete breaths per minute. Now we usually breathe at a rate of two to three seconds per inhale and exhale, but the aim of coherent breathing is to increase the length of each breath (inhale and exhale) to 6 seconds. This means you breathe in the air for six seconds, then release it for another six seconds (or longer if you have a bigger torso). You can start by keeping your eyes closed but once you're practiced enough you can do it with your eyes open as well. 

The best part about this controlled breathing exercise is that you do not need any fancy equipment for it. Whenever you're stressed or anxious, all you need to do is take a seat and do a few rounds to calm your nerves. "It t’s totally private. Nobody knows you’re doing it," explained Gerbarg. Unlike many breathwork that decreases oxygenation in one's body, Gerbarg and Brown thought that Coherent breathing sends extra oxygen to the brain. But now the couple believes that it's the vagal nerves - which connect the brain to the body - which send messages in the other direction i.e. from the body to the brain.



"These ascending messages strongly influence stress response, emotion, and neurohormonal regulatory networks," they explained in their 2015 book Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice. "Respiration is the only autonomic function we can voluntarily control," added Gerbarg, explaining that changing the pattern of breath can help change the message the brain receives. Balanced breathing allows one to remain calm while socializing with people or even working. It sends a message of safety, allowing your mind to reduce anxiety and depressive thoughts.

Although the adverse reaction from this breathwork is rare, people with asthma might find that it worsens their symptoms initially as it may narrow their airways. Due to this, it is best for them to practice only under the supervision of an expert. Stonnington thinks more psychiatrists should adopt this breathing exercise. "It could entice more patients to seek care because the option of using a variety of modalities, not all involving medications, is appealing to many people," she said. For those starting out, Gerbarg recommends sessions of at least 15 to 20 minutes or even longer. The key is to begin, even two to three breaths is enough to begin with when you're trying to be healthy. 





Representative cover image source: Getty | Photo by Deepak Sethi