When there’s an anxiety-producing event looming—an important presentation, dental surgery, a first date—you can start to calm your nerves the day before with this exercise.
Close your eyes and gently bring your lips together. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale (also through your nose), make a humming sound: “Mmmmmm.” Let this hum last as long as it is comfortable. Then inhale and repeat. Don’t try to control it too much. Just breathe in and hum out. If you try to extend the hum longer than is natural, you might tighten up. Play with the tone until you find the place where your “mmmmmm” flows out in a comfortable, lowish pitch, audible but quiet enough that no one except, say, the person right next to you on the bus would hear it. The humming breath has a way of loosening your jaw, mouth, lips, and tongue—areas that tend to tense up when you’re nervous. Once you’ve found your hum, repeat it whenever you start to feel anxious— whether you’re standing, sitting, or walking. Let it be easy and fun. Over the course of the day, the soothing effect will build, helping you become more and more relaxed for the big event.
Cyndi Lee, the founder of the influential OM yoga Center, in New York City, now teaches yoga worldwide. She is the author of five books, including the memoir May I Be Happy. Find her at cyndilee.com.