You can do these two yoga breathing exercises anywhere and they will calm your mind in minutes

Try some pranayama (yoga breathing) if you're feeling anxious

A man stands outside and inhales deeply
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Yoga offers many benefits. It can boost your flexibility, improve your mood and help you build core strength. You can do yoga for digestion, if you struggle with bloating, and practicing bedtime yoga could help you drift off quickly.

Certain types of yogic breathwork can also give you immediate relief from stress and anxiety. That's certainly what I found when practicing these techniques from yoga teacher Naomi Annand.

“There are many pranayama [breathing] techniques and kriyas [cleansing techniques] in yoga," she explains. “One breath technique I particularly like is called viloma pranayama, which means against the grain, or against the flow. There have been trials done around this practice and it's been proven to reduce anxiety.”

She's suggested two techniques below for Fit&Well readers to try. I tried both recently while lying awake in the early hours, fretting about things out of my control. Within 10 minutes my system had gone from high alert to a calmer state.

Naomi Annand
Naomi Annand

Naomi Annand runs her own yoga studio, Yoga On The Lane, in east London, and has published two books, Yoga: A Manual For Life and Yoga For Motherhood.

Breath retention (bahya kumbhaka)

Woman doing yoga breathwork in her living room

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Breathe in for the count of two then breathe out for the count of two.
  • At the end of the exhale, pause for a count of two.
  • Repeat for as long as you need or want to.

"This is a really good grounding breath that you can do any time," says Annand.

Interrupted breathing (viloma pranayama)

  • Breathe in for a count of two, and pause for two.
  • Inhale a bit more for the count of two, imagining you are filling the upper third of your lungs.
  • Exhale out for a count of six.
  • Repeat from the beginning.

"This technique is where you interrupt the flow of the inhale and then you exhale slowly. Doing that for a few breaths really helps with anxiety. It helps to lengthen the exhale breath," says Annand.

How breathwork helps with anxiety

When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, our heart beats fast and our breath becomes quicks and shallow—a stress response from the body. Breathing techniques enable you to control and slow your breath.

This activates the parasympathetic nervous system—your body’s rest and relaxation response—slowing your heart rate and helping you feel calmer and more grounded, or present in the moment.

If you want a longer flow to help you tackle stress, try doing these nine yoga for anxiety moves.

Camilla Artault
Contributing editor and writer

Camilla Artault is the chief tester of women’s running gear over on our sister site Coach. She also interviews experts and writes about a wide range of topics encompassing health, fitness, food, lifestyle and parenting.