Yogic breathing to calm your mind and emotions.

There isn’t a more trusted or reliable friend than your breath. You can learn so much about your current state, physically, mentally, and emotionally by observing how your breath is flowing. Learning to connect with the breath is one, if not THE most powerful practice you can ever master. It is a technique that will bring you out of the stress response and return you back to balance.  In this article I am sharing with you five wonderful and accessible yogic breathing practices to calm your mind and emotions.

Techniques that you can depend on in moments of stress, or when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Yogic practices you can also turn to when you are struggling with sleep.

Why you need to slow your breath down

Your breath is an involuntary movement that happens whether you are observing it or not. The average person will breathe between 12-20 times per minute, that’s an average of 21,000 breaths a day. The great and wise Yogis believed you have a specific number of breaths at your disposal during your lifetime. This is a good reason to learn yogic breathing to slow your breath down!

The way you breath has a significant impact on your state of mind and you’re wellbeing. Breath and body are interrelated just as the breath and mind are also.

In times of stress or if you are feeling anxious your breath will be shallow and more rapid. When you breathe rapidly, the time the breath naturally holds between inhalation and exhalation is reduced. Your body has a deficit of carbon dioxide which in turn reduces the delivery of oxygen to the cells around your body.

Controlled breathing

Simply by bringing attention to the breath, it will naturally begin to slow down.

However, controlled breathing where you consciously change the rhythm of your breath and slow the breath down, helps to improve the functionality of the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and gut systems of your body.

There have been over 1000 medical studies that have investigated the benefits of yogic breathing practices on our health.

Regularly practising breathwork or Pranayama will keep your mind and body healthy. It can help to lower blood pressure, promote the feeling of calm and relaxation, and give you relief from the symptoms of stress.

As your heart rate slows down, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated which brings the desired balance back to your nervous system. When you are in a calm, relaxed state, the stresses of life become all that more manageable. And you’ll find that the quality of your sleep also improves.

And because the attention is on one single point – your breath. Your mind is also more focused, you are present in the moment.

Yet, Pranayama breathwork is much more than controlling the breath. By using the appropriate pranayama technique, you can use these practices to change your current state of mind and as a tool for managing your overall wellbeing.

Self compassion is important
Here are five pranayama breathwork practices to calm your mind and emotions.
1. Breath awareness

The purpose of bringing attention to your breath is to observe its natural patterns. You are not trying to change it, (which can be a challenge). You are viewing how your breath is naturally flowing in and out. This observation of breath is the main part of the technique.

You may have experienced when you are feeling overwhelmed or in a stressful moment your breath is more rapid. In these situations, the breath tends to come from the upper thoracic area which means your breath is shallow. You’re not breathing fully into your lungs, and therefore, not taking in enough oxygen.

The opposite occurs when you are feeling calm and relaxed. The breath is much slower and deeper, there may be more pauses in between each breath. There may be spontaneous deep breaths. You’re also bringing more oxygen into your lungs.

By observing your breath, you are also able to take yourself out of the ‘stress response’ and bring yourself to a place of peace and calmness,  the ‘relaxation response’.

Try this practice…

  • Close your eyes, bring your attention to your breath.
  • Notice how your breath is flowing. ( Try not to change it, just observe)
  • Are you breathing slowly or is your breath fast?
  • Is your breath shallow or are you breathing deeply?
  • Stay with this observation for a few moments before opening your eyes.


belly breath
2. Abdominal breathing (diaphragmatic)

Abdominal breathing is the most natural and efficient way to breathe. However, the effects of our busy modern lives has moved us away from this natural state. As a society generally, we are living more in the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the stress response or fight or flight.

When you are in a stressful state, the “fight or flight”  response is activated from signals in the primitive part of your brain to say danger is coming… blood is pumped away from e.g. your digestive system into the limbs to prepare you to fight, or to move away from the immediate danger.

Thankfully, this stress response can be reduced by consciously breathing with the belly.

Through diaphragmatic breathing, you are helping your lungs to expand. As the lungs fill with air, the muscle of the diaphragm pushes down and flattens against the abdominal organs. This creates pressure in the abdominal cavity.

It is here neuro-receptors live. When they are activated, they send messages to the vagus nerve in the brain telling it to relax the body. Reducing heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. Returning calmness to body, mind, and emotions and re-activating the para-sympathetic nervous system, (rest and digest).

Try this practice…

Belly breathing is a wonderful practice to access to calm the body and mind before sleep, (It’s my nightly practice!)

  • Place your hands gently on your belly when you are laying in bed.
  • Take the attention of your breath to this area.
  • Naturally observe the breath moving in and out of the abdomen.
  • As you do so, your hands will also naturally move up and down.
  • There should be no straining in your breathing.
  • It is also very effective practice to bring a ratio count to the breath.
  • Start with a ratio of 1:1, for example breath in for a count of three and exhale for a count of three.
  • Continue with this practice as long as is required!
3. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Not only is Alternate Nostril Breathing the most recognised pranayama practice it is also one of the most important to master. It was the first pranayama I ever learnt, and I use it daily as part of my morning practice. I also use Nadi Shodhana when my mind is overactive.

The aim of Nadi Shodhana is to restore balance. Using a mudra called Nasagra mudra the breath alternates between the left and right nostrils. Distributing prana (energy) evenly through the ida and pingula nadis, and so balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

This pranayama brings a state of balance which helps to release any tensions, and de-stress your mind.

When practicing Nadi Shodhana it is important not to force the breath, to keep it as natural as possible.


4. Bhramari Pranayama

Bhramari Pranayama also known as the Humming Bee Breath due to the sound that is made when you practice.

The effects from Bhramari are instant, bringing calmness to body and mind, reducing the symptoms of stress, making it ideal to practice when you are feeling anxious or stressed.

It’s also very good for building your immune system! The concentration of Nitric Oxide increases in the nasal cavity 15 fold than normal breathing. Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently.

Due to its internalising qualities, Bhramari Pranayama is also ideal to practise prior to sitting for meditation.


bhramari pranayama for relaxation
5. Ujjayi Pranayama

Like Bhramari, Ujjayi Pranayama is a tranquillising practice. It can be practiced at anytime from anywhere. The subtle sound that is made whilst practising is often referred to as the sound of a baby sleeping, or the sound of the ocean.

The mouth remains closed, the exhalation comes from the nose,  the sound comes from the back of the throat.

Ujjayi soothes your nervous system, slowing down the heart rate.  (Caution for anyone who has low blood pressure). It is a pranayama practice that is often used in Ashtanga and other postural yoga practices, to link movement with breath.

Ujjayi also concentrates and internalises the mind, which also makes it ideal to practice before meditation.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also like to read:

Relax your mind instantly with this one practice.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Your breath can be your reset.

Restore Balance with Alternate Nostril Breathing.


Click the link below to access a free 10-minute audio training, where you will learn a simple mindfulness practice that uses the breath to reclaim your calm, focus and clarity.