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Breathing Techniques

Breath is essential to life but what we may not realise is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other.

Tell me more

Our breathing is influenced by the way we think, and our thoughts and physiology are influenced by our breath. Being aware of and learning to breathe consciously can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.

When you experience stressful, anxious or negative thoughts, your sympathetic nervous system triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response.  This gives a burst of energy to respond to the perceived danger and breathing becomes shallow and rapid from the chest rather than the lower lungs. This can make you feel short of breath. At the same time, your body produces a surge of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which increase your blood pressure and pulse which put you in a state of high alert.

How can it help me?

With deep breathing, you can reverse these symptoms instantly and create a sense of calm in your mind and body. When you breathe deeply and slowly, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reverses the stress response in your body. Deep breathing stimulates the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system which slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and calms your body and mind.

The benefits of a regular practice of simple, deep breathing include:

  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Lower/stabilized blood pressure
  • Increased energy levels
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Decreased feelings of stress and feeling overwhelmed

In addition, with deep breathing, you engage the abdominal muscles and diaphragm instead of the muscles in the upper chest and neck. This results in improved efficiency of oxygen exchange with every breath by allowing more air exchange to occur in the lower lungs. It also reduces strain on the muscles of the neck and upper chest, allowing these muscles to relax. In short, deep breathing is more relaxing and efficient, allowing higher volumes of oxygen to reach the body’s cells and tissues.

As well as reversing the physical stress response in the body, deep breathing can help calm and slow down the emotional turbulence in the mind. Breathing can have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so there is less reactivity to our emotions

How do I do it?

You will get the most benefit if you practice breathing techniques regularly, as part of your daily routine.  You will then find them easier to use when you experience a stressful situation.

You can do them standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back or lying on a bed or mat on the floor.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.

If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.

If you're sitting, place your palms downwards on your lap or your arms on the chair arms.

If you’re sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet approximately hip-width apart.

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five. You may not be able to reach five at first.
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from one to five again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for three to five minutes.
  • Practice as often as you can 

Breathing Techniques resources

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What's in this resource?

  • Breathing Techniques Mindful Breathing (.pdf)

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  • Breathing Techniques Visualisation And Breathing (.pdf)

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