Obsessive thinking and worrying seems to be a common problem in our society nowadays. It causes stress accumulation in our body and anxiety provoking symptoms. Loosing track of what causing our worries and obsessively thinking about it serves no purpose, in fact it does quite the opposite- it heightens the symptoms and make it harder for us to take actions to reduce our suffering. Yoga offers us specific techniques that help reduce stress and shift our perceptive on anxiety. It teaches us how to tune inwards, go beneath the surface of anxiety and figure out what might be triggering it, things like unresolved conflicts, habituals behaviours and old patters that we can shift and change with some internal work and time.
Focusing on our breath is one example of these useful tools.Paying attention to an automatic function like the breath with conscious effort can make marvellous changes to our set of mind. Controlling the rhythm and depth of our breath is a profound entry point to calm down an overactive stress response system. When we are anxious or fearful our breath becomes quick, choppy and and rigid, it is constricted or even sometimes stop all together. The breath is usually located in the upper chest and we don't get tp engage the diaphragm fully. Such rapid breath activate the Sympathetic Nervous System, which releases stress hormones, we expel more carbon dioxide, which causes agitation and changes the whole gas balance in our body. When we are calm the breath becomes long, smooth, steady and deep. In this optimal situation the neck and chest muscles remain quiet, it is the diaphragm that does all the work. In Yoga we mainly breath through the nose, because the nasal passage are narrower and offer that way more resistance, allowing slow and long exhalation. Deep belly breathing activate the Parasympathetic brunch of the Autonomic Nervous System, which is in charge of the Rest and Digest mode, slowing down or reactivity.
Try this practice:
Sit down in a comfortable crossed leg position or on a chair with your back supported.
For the first few moments just observe your own natural breath.
Establish a baseline to your experience by observing your current state. Watch the rhythm of your inhale and exhale, where is the body your feeling the breath, the depth of it, perhaps its texture or temperature. Witnessing all the little qualities of your own natural breath.
After few rounds slowly without forcing see if you can establish a nice equal rhythm to the inflow and out flow. Maybe 2 counts each or longer if comfortable.
After few rounds of even inhale and exhale, see if you can introduce a slight pause at the end of your inhale. Make that pause last as long as your inhale, so you get a nice ratio of all 3 parts of the breath (i.e 2 counts inhale: 2 counts retaining the breath : 2 counts exhale or 3:3:3 etc.) do that for 10-15 rounds or more if you like.
Slowly start increasing the counts as you go. If any agitation or feeling of lightheaded occur drop the count and go back to your normal abdominal breath.
At the completion of the practice sit for few moments and absorb the benefits. Observe the effects of the practice on your body, mind and breath. always reflecting on the new state in camparrison to the 'base line' you establish at the beginning of the practice.