Breathing Exercises and Techniques to Reduce Stress: Breathing Seems to be the Key

What is one of the first pieces of information you find anywhere on the Internet when you search information on "staying calm", or "how to deal with stressful situations "or even specific to meditation and yoga which are obviously other ways people combat tension in there life?

The answer is Breathing! Of course in this instance we are specifically talking about focused and controlled breathing in a way that is going to hopefully allow you to reduce your stress and anxiety.

I know I have personally used some of these stress relieving breathing exercises and techniques in my own life, (some more frequently then others) especially in stress filled situations or moments in my life.

The Himalayan Institute has some great information on the "skills for proper breathing." They discuss things like nose breathing, focusing, breathing diagrammatically, and ways to strengthen the diaphragm.

You may remember from school, in stressful situations, the body's fight or flight response is stimulated which does result in anatomical changes in the body. Vital signs such as, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing changes, by increasing. The focus of breathing exercises that are discussed in this article is to try and bring our body back to normalcy and re-balance the body.

So let's get into some of these breathing exercises to help you calm down in times of high stress:

List of Breathing Exercises to Help try and Reduce Stress and Anxiety:

Deep Breathing:

In most occasions this is my favorite from of relaxation breathing. Deep breathing exercises for stress and anxiety is something everyone knows and everyone probably even does without really thinking about it, in these difficult times.

In it's simplest of terms deep breathing is really just a way to do just that, get more fresh air in your lungs on every breath, a way to feel more centered. With this kind of movement of air and in it out of the lungs, less air is actually trapped at the end of each exhalation (Health line)

Sama Vritti:

This form of breathing is also referred to as "equal breathing". Its a fancy name I know, but it is super easy and really there is nothing fancy about it. The basis for all of these calming breathing exercises, starts with getting the most conformable position possible.

With that said I am aware that not always are you able to do this, especially if you're at work or at a social event and start feeling a level of stress or anxiety. With this technique it involves you to close your eyes, breathe in for 4 counts and then exhale for 4 counts.

What you are really doing here is focusing on your each time you inhale and exhale, (those breaths being the same interval), or the same amount of time.

PMR or Progressive Relaxation Exercises:

So these are great exercises that start with breathing as it's focus, however adds in other muscle groups as well to relieve tension, and ends up being a great controlled relaxation technique using both breathing and other parts of the body.

It involves inhaling, tensing a specific muscle group, and then exhaling while you release tension on that same muscle group. Read more about it by clicking link above.

Pursed Lip Breathing:

One of the more common breathing techniques that I have been accustomed to seeing over the years is pursed lip breathing. One of the many ideas around reducing stress in any situation is to slow your body down, both physically and mentally, because you are already at a heightened state of awareness and stress.

This exercise is no different. The idea here is to deliberately slow your breathing by increasing tension on your lips. I usually like to breath in though my nose for a 2-3 count and then purse your lips or tighten them up and then exhale for another 5 count. So you exhalation should be much slower and take longer.

This breathing exercise forces you to slow your breathing, it also means more time for air to be in you lungs for gas exchange to occur.

Alternate Nostril (nose) Breathing:

Another great breathing exercise for stress is alternate nostril breathing. You may have never heard this one before, but it's actually one that works fairly well in my experience, and is a fantastic relaxation breathing exercise.

According to Healthline, this technique may also enhance cardiovascular function and lower heart rate. So what is alternate nostril breathing and how can it help reduce stress or anxiety?

Like the other breathing exercises in this blog, this one revolves around timing, focus and feeling. Steps and a helpful video for alternate nostril breathing are below.

Easy to Follow Steps:

a. Get into a Comfortable Position. Focus on your Posture

b. Focus on hand placement first. Take you pointer finger and your middle finger and press them toward the palm of your hand. Leave all other finger extended as best a possible. Try this now to get a feel.

c. Once that's completed, take your hand and bring it up to you nose.

d. Fully exhale, and then press with your thumb (on that same hand) against you right nostril, and inhale. So it should be right thumb to you right nostril, continuing to keep you pointer finger and middle finger pressed towards the palm of your hand and the other fingers extended, inhale.

e. Once you have inhaled (through your left nostril, because your thumb is pressed against the right nostril at this time) you want to press your left nostril with the remaining fingers, your index finger and pinky, release your thumb and exhale (through your right nostril). It is kind of a weird feeling at first (at least I think so) with your finger placement, but you get used to it quickly.

f. Next, you want to do the same with your right nostril. So after you exhale fully while releasing tension on your right nostril, now inhale through that same side, and then press with your thumb once again on the right nostril while exhaling through the left side. I like to do this for about 5 minutes if I can and believe it or not it is a great breathing exercise for stress and anxiety relief.

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Cronkleton, E. (2019, April 11). 10 Breathing Exercises to Try: For Stress, Training & Lung Capacity. Retrieved from

Shakeshaft, J. (2019, November 11). How to Breathe Stress and Anxiety Away. Retrieved from

Star, K. (2019, July 17). Take a Few Deep Breaths and Calm Panic Disorder. Retrieved from

Yogic Breathing: A Study Guide. (2019, October 22). Retrieved from Library & Membership&utm_term=Wisdom Library - yoga&utm_content=Learn the art of calming your mind and nervous system with yogic  breathing.&gclid=Cj0KCQiArdLvBRCrARIsAGhB_szMdWmyx16KaIQST8IjeNiC4qqyYNnpdTBODQAUcw7ZbVKmfdiQ-A8aAs0IEALw_wcB.

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