Healthy Beginnings

3 Yogi Breathing Tips to Help You Relieve Stress, Anxiety

Scientific research is proving what yogis have known for centuries – breathwork can deliver powerful mind and body benefits. If you’re starting 2017 feeling over- worked, anxious and stressed, consider concentrating on your breath.

Breath control is proven to help quell errant stress response, lower blood pressure and promote feelings of calm and relaxation1. Breathwork (or, Pranayama) is also known to help increase awareness and mindfulness, and encourages your body to balance.

“Pranayama (Prana meaning ‘life force’ and yama meaning ‘control’) is one of the original eight limbs of yoga, as described in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, written around 400 CE/AD, and believed to have been in use even before then,” Ellie Girdis, co-owner of Midtown Community Yoga, said. “Pranayama is the practice of breath control to achieve a connection between mind and body, but more so as a way to calm the mind.”

Whether you’re at work or in the grocery store, or in any environment that elicits stress and anxiety, consider integrating a few of Ellie’s go-to breathing techniques into your day:

  1. Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”

Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four – all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath2.

“Equal breathing, or Sama Vritti in Sanskrit, is what my mother taught me as a small child,” Ellie said. “Though she had zero connection to yoga at the time, she was also taught this same technique by her mother to deal with stress, or restlessness, etc. This seems to be the most accessible breath practice and the one I teach most often (in class and to my children).”

  1. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

Starting in a meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril2.

  1. Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”

Begin with a long, slow inhale, followed by a quick, powerful exhale generated from the lower belly. Once comfortable with the contraction, up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every one to two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths2.

Ellie finds that making time to breathe and meditate significantly impacts her day, promoting positivity, clarity and peace with her mind and body.

“It’s really about establishing a connection with your body, and how you do that is by using your breath in all of your movements and – at points – controlling your breath and just focusing on your breath.”

Zak Girdis, Ellie’s husband and co-owner of Midtown Community Yoga, recognized the peace and joy that yoga brought to Ellie’s life and, in 2015, opened Midtown Community Yoga.

“Since finding and studying yoga 8 years ago, I have learned a lot, but for me, one of the most exciting things is realizing that we all have access to Pranayama,” Ellie said. “We can use it anytime, anywhere, and it truly works. Whether or not you have access to an asana practice (movement and postures of yoga) you are always able to exercise your breath and experience the benefits of doing so.”

For more information, call Midtown Community Yoga at 775-870-9905 or visit

By Gabrielle Irvin


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