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Our bodies need a regular supply of oxygen yet strangely, when we are nervous or under pressure we often tend to hold our breath. Maybe it is some deep evolutionary connection to puffer fish, who swell up to appear bigger when faced with a threat!

Unlike puffer fish, swelling up isn’t going to scare away any of the stresses and strains of daily life. We need to breathe deeply and evenly, especially in moments of pressure.

puffer fish

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Holding the breath causes the muscles to tighten, which will trigger physical feelings of anger, strain and anxiety. It can also make us over-emotional. Oxygen depletion also notoriously affects the judgement, so can lead to bad decision-making.

In the yoga studio, we practice steady breathing. In the real world, it can be easy to forget as we rush from one place to another. These three steps will help you breathe stress away — and keep your brain functioning at its best.

Do Pranayama

Pranayama breathing isn’t just for the yoga studio. Any time you find yourself stressed, you can take a short break and do yogic breathing to help bring your body back to balance and your mind to tranquility.

“The breath and mind go together,” says Swami Karunananda, a teacher at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia, who specializes in using pranayama to deal with fear, anger, and depression. “If the breath is calm, steady, and even, so are we. If the breath is shallow, agitated, and arrhythmic, the mind won’t be able to concentrate.”

Talk a walk

Often our environment is a trigger for stress or anxiety. Talking a walk is a way to step out of the immediate situation and get our body moving in a rhythmic way. It is impossible to hold your breath long while you’re exercising! After a minute or two of walking you should find yourself breathing more evenly. As your body warms up you should find you are naturally taking full, even breathes to fuel your effort. The added benefit is that endorphins will kick in, helping soothe your stress and giving you a better perspective on the situation.


Meditation is a practice that can free us from repetitive thoughts and excessive worry. Sitting quietly and breathing might seem impossible to do if you’re super-stressed but if you try, even for a few minutes, simply concentrating on the in-and-out breath, you will find your mind slowing down. Gradually, you will be able to see things in a different light and feel  more in control of your emotions and responses.

Read more: How to begin a meditation practice, Guided meditation for your body