By Lucy Robert
Founder of Ballet Fusion, a ballet training program for adults, and alumnus of the Royal Academy of Dance, Rhea Sheedy has developed a series of breathing exercises to help people with anxiety.
As the lockdown slowly lifts, more and more people will have to return to the office and mingle with the crowds, whether on the way to work on public transport or when meeting friends and family – which means that breathing exercise could be crucial in calming people down and helping their mental health.
Sheedy explains why breathing exercises are so important for reducing stress levels and how the techniques have personally helped her.
Q) How important are breathing exercises in trying to reduce anxiety levels?
A) When we feel anxious, our breath often changes: we may feel short of breath, short of breath, or we may feel like swallowing air. This triggers our flight or fight response and can cause an imbalance of oxygen and CO2 delivered to the brain. This can lead to dizziness, feeling lightheaded or faint, or even fainting. Breathing exercises help us bring our breathing back to normal, sending a message to our body and brain that we are fine and that the danger we have perceived is not that serious. Breathing really is the first and easiest step in reducing anxiety.
Q) Can breathing exercises be done anywhere?
A) The best breathing exercises to do in a public space are box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or cupped hands breathing. These will be barely noticeable and can have an immediate effect in a moment of anxiety.
Q) Have these breathing techniques personally helped you in certain situations or in everyday life?
A) Yes absolutely! Like many people, I suffer from anxiety in certain situations (for me these are crowded spaces with no way out, like the subway or the plane). I find that noticing my breathing and taking a moment to control it with one of the techniques really helps. It’s easier said than done when you’re in a moment of panic, but the best advice I can share is don’t fight it, just notice what’s going on in your body, then gently bring your breath back. back to normal with one of the breathing exercises. On a daily basis, I use my ballet lessons and exercises to enjoy breathing and to become more in tune with my breathing. Inhaling and exhaling daily with port de bras or prayer is a great way to relax and build strong neural pathways for an overall calmer and healthier nervous system.
Q) Is there a particular exercise that really helps you or are they all important?
A) Any breathing exercise is beneficial. Personally, I like the alternate nostril breathing exercise. It’s super simple but there’s so much science behind it and the benefits are huge. It can be done in a time of stress to induce calm, or daily as part of meditation or a short break from work. Sometimes I do it in the bath! In addition to promoting relaxation, improving ung, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, alternate nostril breathing is also believed to increase energy levels, improve digestion, reduce depression, and improve brain function in both the right and left hemispheres (left nostril = brain right, right nostril = left brain).
Q) What kind of feedback have you had from people doing these exercises?
A) I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel better after a breathing exercise. We do the exhale shoulder raise exercises in many of our classes and a very common comment I get afterwards is that people didn’t realize how much they were holding their shoulders and neck! The feeling of relaxation that follows is really noticeable.
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