Life is often full of overwhelmingness. This could be because you get panic attacks, or uncontrollably angry for a few seconds, or suddenly really sad or unsure of yourself, or an impulse to hide. For me this normally happens during confrontations, but we all have our triggers – and there might not be a reason. Obviously this is totally normal and nothing to worry about per se – but it can lead to behaviour that will piss future you off (screaming at someone, saying something you don’t mean, running away from a confrontation it would have been better to resolve, etc).
This little breathing exercise (or pranayama, as we call breath practices in Yoga Town) is for moments like this. If you ever feel like you’re going to lose it in some way, do these three little steps and they will help you back onto an even keel.
- Take a long, slow breath in. Breathe into the bottom of your lungs first, then the middle, then the top. Imagine air being poured into you like water being poured from a jug (or wine from a bottle, if that is a soothing image). As you breathe in, count how long it takes you – try to get up to a count of four.
- When you breathe out, count how long it takes again. But this time, slow the breath down – try to make it last for six instead of four.
- Do six full breaths like this, with your out-breath longer than the in-breath. While you do it, just focus on your breathing – concentrate on the counting, and how the air feels as it flows through you.
Even if you’re in a situation where you can’t get away and take the time to do six breaths, you will find that even one full in and out breath will calm you down and help you respond in a way that makes sense.
As you are reading this you may be thinking “sure THANKS Lucy, I did actually know that taking deep breaths is calming, chuh, call this a blog post?” and yes, this is something we all understand. The thing is though, in the heat of the moment, it is really difficult to connect to the sensible part of your brain that knows this shit. So what is a really good idea is to practice this breathing every day so that you don’t have to remember – your body knows what to do. Do it in some slack time that you do every day (waiting for a bus, or for your computer to turn on, or the kettle to boil perhaps?). And then when you feel like snapping or crying or running, you won’t, instead you will be a BRAIN NINJA!!!
Of course, you can’t make anxiety or anger instantly go away. Or at least, I have no idea how to (if you can, get in touch and tell me). But you can sometimes buy yourself a little bit of time to change how you react to them.