Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress

Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to reduce stress. Use these breathing techniques for deep relaxation and counter the effects of stress on the mind and body.

I remember as a kid the doctor telling me to "take a deep breath" as he placed a stethoscope to my chest. If you are like me, you probably expanded your chest and raised your shoulders as you inhaled.

Right? Wrong!

It just so happens that this type of breathing does not use your lungs efficiently and there are better ways to breathe for optimal health and relaxation.

In of the most effective stress management techniques is right under our noses?

The breathing exercises that I provide here are:

  • deep breathing techniques that relax and focus
  • diaphragmatic breathing techniques
  • alternate nostril breathing
  • controlled tempo breathing
  • breath counting exercises
  • and many more.

Breathing techniques are one of the easiest and most powerful ways to relax and reduce stress.

They are easy to learn and can be done just about anywhere.

Diaphragmatic breathing as a controlled deep breathing exercise

When stressed, you may start to breathe from your chest in short shallow breaths. Alternatively, you may also hold your breath without being aware of it.

Do these sound familiar?

This type of breathing means you are less likely to get oxygen to your muscles and more likely to become fatigued.

Also, what's worse is that this shallow breathing has the potential to increase stress and anxiety.

Breathing techniques are a great way to short-circuit this vicious stress cycle.

The basis for most breathing techniques is diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing is really belly breathing. Here are some steps to perform diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. sit or lie down

  2. deeply inhale and push the belly down and out. This involves movement of the diaphragm and allows your lungs to inflate fully
  3. hold for three seconds
  4. exhale and feel the abdominal wall descend toward the spine
  5. repeat five times.

Deep breathing exercises for relaxation and stress relief

breathing exercises

Exercises for deep breathing give you a strategy to relax that is quite effective as an immediate response to stress.

Are you a shallow breather or a deep breather?

Shallow breathing creates an imbalance in the oxygen/carbon dioxide ratio and can increase stress and anxiety.

Count your breaths for one minute.

Himalayan Yogis and Breathing

It is reported that some Himalayan yogis, when in a state of complete relaxation, take one to two breaths per minute (Green, 2003). This takes a lot of concentration and practice.

Most people tend to breathe about 10-12 breathes per minute. If this is the case then like most other adults, you are breathing from the chest.

To get the most benefit from stress-relieving breathing techniques, deep breathing from the abdomen is necessary.

When I teach clients these breathing techniques they comfortably reduce their breathing rates to about 4-7 breaths per minute.

Other deep breathing techniques for relaxation and stress relief

Deep breathing techniques have been around for as long as yoga and Tai Chi.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of deep breathing techniques and is used in many other relaxation exercises such as:

When stressed, we often breathe rapidly and shallowly and this can further increase stress and anxiety.

To stop this vicious cycle of increasing stress and anxiety the following deep breathing techniques may be beneficial:

Alternate nostril breathing

This is one of those yoga breathing exercises that calms the mind and body, improves focus and concentration, and aids relaxation.

Alternate nostril breathing takes some practice but is a useful stress management technique.

Breath counting exercise

This breath counting exercise for deep breathing promotes relaxation and increase focus.

If you are looking for something that increases your power to focus and reduces stress then this deep breathing exercise is beneficial.

Controlled tempo breathing

This deep breathing technique focuses your mind, relaxes and centers your body, and improves your breath control.

By aligning your breathing to your pulse rate and varying inhalation, exhalation, and rest, you develop greater breath control and improve your arsenal of stress management techniques.

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