For years, I have sat with clients experiencing strong emotions: anxiety, fear, anger, grief.
As a psychotherapist, I have learned many treatment methods in educational and professional settings, but what has been most helpful to my clients in modulating emotion is a deep breathing technique.
Practicing for just five minutes during session when a client is emotionally dysregulated can temper the severity of their emotions and increase access to root causes.
My awareness of yogic breathing started when I was a young therapist at a yoga class after an intense work week. At the start, I felt like a giant head disconnected from my body, but after the class, I was relaxed and could feel my toes. I developed a love for yoga and ended up completing a Hatha yoga certification program. I was fortunate the courses also included training in pranayama, ancient techniques for improving and controlling the breath.
Just as the yogic postures (asanas) relaxed my body, deep breathing became natural for me to use during moments of stress, and I introduced it to clients in my professional practice. My individual clients found this breathing useful, so I shared it in the groups I led for anxiety. Over time, I refined the technique and named it “conscious breathing.”
Group participants were eager to practice conscious breathing at our meetings, and I created a guide and diagram for them to use at home. Participants expressed feeling empowered to re-regulate their emotions with these tools at home and reported many positive results.
The next time you are feeling emotional overload, try conscious breathing.
>> Find a quiet comfortable place and sit down
>> Gently close your eyes
>> Visualize a circle cut in two pieces—a top half and a bottom half
>> The top half of the circle is the inhale; the bottom half of the circle is the exhale
>> Inhale a deep breath through your nose
>> Exhale a deep breath through your mouth
Clockwise around the circle:
>> Inhaling through the nose, count silently, one…two…three…
>> Exhaling through mouth, count silently, one…two…three…
>> When you complete seven full circles, you may become aware that your inhalations and exhalations are equal
You are breathing with mindfulness.
Use Conscious Breathing
>> When you are anxious or panicked
>> If you can’t sleep or have recurring thoughts
>> Before a meeting or performance
>> On a turbulent plane
>> Before you eat, spend, or drink too much
>> During a traumatic memory or nightmare
>> When commuting to relax/re-calibrate
>> To “tune in” and get clear about an issue
Conscious breathing may not change your circumstances and is not a substitute for healing therapies, but it can ease symptoms and is so simple.
Try it for yourself.