How Can Pranayama Reduce Stress?

Take a deep breath and calm down isn’t just good advice for wound-up kids. Conscious breathing — whether it’s done simply or by following the breathing techniques of pranayama — can bring a feeling of ease to anyone who is having a stressful day.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the Sanskrit name for breathing techniques that help calm, focus, and clarify the mind. More complicated than just taking a deep breath, pranayama helps to control the flow of breath and, as a result, the movement of energy in the body.

The word is a combination of two Sanskrit words, prana meaning breath or life source, and yama meaning self-control. There are various techniques in pranayama that address the desired emotional benefit, such as boosting energy, sharpening focus, or experiencing deep relaxation.

What Are the Benefits of Pranayama?

These breathing techniques may have a profound effect on your emotions. Don’t believe us? Try this: The next time you are stressed, take five deep breaths and observe the shift in your emotions. Feeling a bit calmer? We thought so.

The effects may be more than just mental or emotional — there may be physical benefits, as well. Studies show that pranayama helps reduce key indicators of stress in the body and one study found that “even a single session of mental relaxation or slow breathing can result in a temporary fall in blood pressure.”

When Should You Do Pranayama?

What’s special about this as a stress-reduction technique is that you can use it while doing other tasks and no one will know. To integrate the technique into your daily life, acknowledge your breath during the day and observe how it changes with your emotions. Maybe even jot down some notes. As you start to see patterns, you’ll be able to predict moments of stress and use it to instill calm and increase focus.

You can think of it as a short meditation or as moment of reflection that lasts only as long as the breath. If your breaths feel too short, try to lengthen your next breath, inhaling all the way to the bottom of your lungs.

To help you remember to take conscious breaths throughout the day, you can set reminders on your phone or stick a Post-It note in your workspace.