‘Breathing in Shapes’ to Reduce Anxiety

How we breathe is something most of us rarely think about, but it plays a crucial role in regulating our mind and body. The benefits of “breathwork” have been known and practiced in many cultures since ancient times, and Western science is now showing how conscious breathing practices can be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. One of these is known as breathing in “shapes.”

Breathing in shapes involves visualizing or mentally tracing specific patterns as you breathe in and out. This helps shift the focus away from anxious thoughts and sensations and leads to a sense of calm and stability. By incorporating this simple but powerful technique into our daily routine, we can cultivate a greater sense of mindfulness and reduce the impact of anxiety on our overall well-being. What’s more, no one will even be aware we are doing it!

Here are some specific examples of breathing in shapes:

Triangle breathing: This technique involves visualizing a triangle and following its three sides as you inahle, exhale, and hold your breath. To do this, inhale deeply to a count of four. Imagine moving up the first side of the triangle. Reaching the top, exhale immediately to a count of four and visualize the second side going down. Reaching the bottom, hold your breath and imagine moving across the bottom side of the triangle, again to a count of four. Repeat this pattern for several breaths. This technique can be extremely calming. You may even find yourself dozing off.

Square breathing: This technique involves visualizing a square or a box and following its four sides with your breath. To do this, inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold your breath again for a count of four. Repeat this pattern for several breaths. This technique has a balancing effect, calming the mind while maintaining alertness.

Circle breathing: This technique involves visualizing a circle and following its curve with your breath. To do this, begin at the 6 o’clock position and inhale deeply, imagining that you are following the curve of the circle upwards. When you reach the 12 o’clock position, exhale and follow the circle back down to 6 o’clock. Repeat this pattern for several breaths. Initially you will feel a start/stop or a pause between your inhale and exhale, but the more you practice, and the calmer you become, the more you may find this stop/start or pause giving way to a sensation of breathing in a smooth, circular pattern. This is a more advanced, meditative kind of breathing.

It can be interesting to experiment with these shapes to see which one works best for you. Feel free to adapt them, change them, or even invent your own. For example, some people find that a longer exhale, or longer hold between breaths, is more effective. You might try changing the triangle count pattern from 4-4-4 (an even count for each inhale-exhale-hold) to a 4-5-6 pattern (where the exhale and hold are each a little longer).

Please note that it’s important to pay attention to signals from your body as you do these exercises. If you begin to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or otherwise out of sorts, discontinue your practice and return to normal breathing. Also keep in mind that not everyone’s experience with these techniques will be the same. What works for one person may not work for another. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or breathing difficulties, it’s important to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare provider.

If you woul like to know more about how to reduce anxiety and stress, please visit my contact page or use the Request Appointment button to book a session with me.

2 thoughts on “‘Breathing in Shapes’ to Reduce Anxiety

  1. Never heard of that Mike, that’s great! Thanks for sharing, will try this sometime. Like the simplicity of it.

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