Take a Breath! Breathing to Relax. | Almanac.com

Take a Breath! Breathing to Relax.

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May Chevrette. Some rights reserved.

Two Simple Breathing Exercises

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Ready to de-stress? Release tension with this deep breathing technique. It really works! As with fitness, deep breathing exercises can actually promote health and relaxation. Learn more—plus, find two simple breathing exercises. See how it works.

From the moment we take that first breath, we keep breathing until we stop for good. Breathing happens automatically and most of us rarely think about it, until we come down with a respiratory ailment or find ourselves puffing with exertion.

Practice Breathing for Stress Relief

Yet focused and deliberate attention to proper breathing is an ancient stress-relieving, health promoting technique. What’s more, it’s free, and doesn’t require equipment or professional help.

Breathing techniques that have formed an important aspect of eastern spiritual practices for centuries have been incorporated into modern mindfulness practices, as well as into programs for managing anger, stress, panic disorder, chronic anxiety, and pain. Athletes, singers, and wind instrumentalists also benefit from breath-training programs.


How to Breathe Deeply

Aside from regular breathing practice, I find a minute of mindful breathing helps restore a balanced perspective, whenever I feel a surge of anger, fear, or anxiety. What a great technique! My breath is always at the ready, costs nothing, and hey! If I’m in a crowd, nobody has to know I’m using it. After all, everybody’s breathing.

Many people breathe shallowly, using only the upper portion of their lungs.

Learning to breathe deeply from the abdomen, strengthening the diaphragm, the muscular wall that separates the chest and abdominal cavities, maintains the proper oxygen-carbon dioxide ratio in the blood. It will also help prevent hyperventilation (sometimes called “overbreathing”), a main cause of anxiety attacks.

Here’s a good primer on learning to breathe from the diaphragm (sometimes also called “belly-breathing”).

Simple Breathing Exercise 1

In this breathing exercise, will inhale once and then exhale once, but do each in three parts. 

Inhale (part 1, 2, 3)

  1. To start, breathe in through your nose, mouth closed (for about a few seconds).
  2. Fill the rib cage, feeling each and every space in-between the ribs become wider (for a few more seconds)
  3. Finish by filling up the upper chest (for a couple seconds)

Exhale (part 1, 2, 3)

  1. Release that breath through your nose from your chest (for a few seconds)
  2. Feel the rib cage become tighter and the spaces in between the ribs become smaller (for a few more seconds)
  3. Use your abdominal muscles to push out the stagnant air at the bottom of your belly (for a couple more seconds)

University of Michigan Medicine recommends you repeat the technique up to seven times, or until you feel relaxed. You can certainly do this multiple times during the day and work yourself up to more breaths.

It’s best performed in the supine position, eyes closed, in a cool, dark room.

Simple Breathing Exercise 2

In this breathing exercise, you will focus on calming your breath and mind.

  1. Smooth – Start to slow down the breath, allow it to become soft without any jerk or pauses
  2. Even – same number of counts in and same number of counts out
  3. Interconnect – Create an easy transition between the inhales and exhales; just as if the breath were a Ferris Wheel, as you inhale the breath rides up and as you shift you naturally fall into the exhale and ride the Ferris Wheel down

More on Breathing Benefits

Do you breathe through your nose or your mouth. Here’s information on the benefits of learning to breathe in through your nose. If you’ve been a chest-and/or-mouth-breather for awhile, it might take time to master these breathing techniques. Keep practicing a few minutes each day.

If you search the Web, you’ll find many articles, research reports, and how-to videos on breathing and specific breathing techniques to improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Try this:

You may also discover local groups and programs that focus on breathing and other techniques to help people manage stress.

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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