Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

Breathing Exercises for Relaxation


Taking deep, controlled breaths throughout the day centers us. We are able to quiet our mind and stay focused. Our mind has less room to focus on its fears or frustrations since it feels calmer and more in control. When we are in a positive state of mind, we feel less stressed and have less negative mood shifts.  


When we have a tendency to take shallower breaths and be less present, our body quickly creates negative physical symptoms. For instance, our upper, mid, and/or lower back feel tight when our breath is chronically shallow. The back muscle tightness leads to negative shifts in our posture which then cause decreased range of motion in our shoulders and hips, and increased repetitive stress in the joints of our arms and legs. We unfortunately do not take notice of how our chronically imbalanced posture irritates our joints. Until our joints scream out in pain, we let the problem continue. Once the joint pain gets out of hand, we tend to only address the problem at the site of the joint instead of looking at the root cause. By correcting our posture, taking deep, controlled breaths, and becoming more present, we can more effectively resolve the joint pains and other health problems that are brewing.


Practicing deep breathing exercises throughout each day will create dramatic differences quickly. The mind will become quiet and feel less stressed. The pain will decrease, and our coping skills will increase. Do these exercises upon awakening and before going to bed for 15 minutes. Repeat the exercises for one minute each hour. You will feel better immediately!


Abdominal Breathing Technique


There are many different breathing techniques you can follow. Mastering abdominal breathing is critical since it is the most important. The more you practice deep breathing, the more natural it will become. Over time, you will find a balanced rhythm in your body and mind.


  1. The first step is placing one hand on the abdomen and one hand on the chest.

  2. The second step is taking a slow deep breath in through your nose. Focus on the air entering in through your lungs and dissipating to every cell in the body. Inhale for at least four seconds feeling the hand on your abdomen rising higher than the hand on your chest.

  3. The third step is exhaling slowly and completely through your mouth over six to eight seconds. Try to gently contract your abdominal muscles pushing the remaining dead air out of the lungs.

  4. Repeat the cycle for a total of twenty slow, deep breaths.


Breathing Tips


Here are a few tips to make your breathing exercises more intense and effective:


  • You should exhale for twice as long as when you inhale.

  • One full breath – both inhalation and exhalation – should be completed in ten seconds, thus six breaths per minute. Studies have found this to be the most effective way to normalize blood pressure and stabilize the nervous system.

  • Incorporate saying positive words that can make the experience more powerful. Say “relax, peace, love” when you inhale to bring these positive emotions into your life. While you exhale say negative words such as “stress, anger” to release these negative emotions out of your body.


Learn More about Breathing Exercises


If you want to learn more about how to optimize your breathing to work for your mind and body, visit an integrative wellness practitioner to guide you. You can also enroll in yoga or Pilates classes at your local fitness centre. These instructors can educate you about various breathing techniques and help you perfect your breathing.


About the Author

Payal Bhandari M.D. is a holistic family physician at her practice, Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Her integrative style blends the best in western and eastern medicine to effectively transform health.


Photo credit text: {Photo credit: Flickr/Mae Chevrette}