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Breathing is pretty important; the alternative doesn’t bode well for anyone. But the life-enabling process of breathing can also have a healing or calming role. Two fairly common conditions that many of us have at times are hyperventilation and minor panic episodes. Controlled breathing can help reduce the effects of these episodes. It turns out that even people who have severe panic attacks and other anxiety driven conditions can benefit from what is referred to as “breathing retraining”.

Flowy is a breathing retraining game app for smartphones you can get for free today in its beta version. Flowy is a product of Play Lab London. Available now for iOS and Android phones, Flowy’s base application is a game in which you follow a diaphragmatic breathing regimen with timed inhalation and exhalation while directing a ship to miss obstacles like other ships or rocks and collect gold pieces. I found it takes a bit of practice to focus on controlling the ship while also regulating breathing. A big part of the reason Flowy works is it requires concentration along with controlled breathing; you literally don’t have time to think about anything else, which in itself can lessen anxiety to some extent because you can’t think about what may be worrying you. The application also has a section called “Calm School” in which you respond to eight questions about your current anxiety level, following which you are given a descriptive rating (mine was “calm”) and a dated data point on an anxiety chart (mine was “low”). After you finish the test you are encouraged to take it again after eight days of playing the Flowy game to chart your progress.

Play Lab London states that while breathing retraining may be helpful with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), their emphasis with Flowy is on mental health and lessening the physical symptoms that often accompany panic attacks and hyperventilation, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness, and heart palpitations. According to the vendor certain “premium features” will be included in the paid final release Flowy version, but the core game itself will still be free. Even if you don’t have a significant issue with anxiety, taking a Flowy break regularly a few times day can be a healthy habit.