It’s true that meditation will help you when you are feeling depressed and anxious. It can even be a life saver when you find yourself stressed out. That said, one tool that most people over look in their personal arsenal when they are seeking a “calm me down” technique is the breath.
Richard Rosen, in this recent Yoga Journal article, takes a look at the recuperative power of the breath. According to Rosen, pranayama or the practice of controlling one’s breath helps to alter a person’s mind. In doing so, the parasympathetic nervous system is engage. The result? Biological changes than in turn lead a person to feeling more calm and relaxed.
In his post, Rosen also gives several breathing exercises to help you with anxiety, depression and fatigue.
FATIGUE. To work with fatigue, settle into your everyday breath. Then, after it has slowed down and smoothed out, pause briefly after an exhalation. Rest peacefully in the stillness. After a few seconds, you’ll feel a kind of ripple; it’s the swell of your next inhalation, building like a wave approaching the shore. Don’t take the inhalation immediately; instead, allow it to gather and grow for a few more seconds. Then, without effort or resistance, gratefully receive the breath.
Continue to explore lengthening your exhalation retentions for 10 or 15 breaths. Then begin to lengthen your inhalations gradually, just as you lengthened your exhalations in the previous exercise for anxiety. Finally, shift part of your focus to the sound of your inhalations, a slightly whispering sibilance the yogis think of as “sa.” Try to make this sound—and your inhalations—as soft and even as possible from beginning to end, and continue to watch your breath as steadily as you can for 10 to 15 minutes.
Read more from Rosen on using the breath in combination with meditation here.