Relaxation Techniques: Breathing

Sandi Anders, MDiv, CSC

One of the easiest Relaxation Techniques is literally, "right under our noses."

Breathing Patterns Reflect Relaxation and Stress Responses

When you are stressed, your breathing patterns often reflect the presence of that stress. For example, when you are highly stressed, you might find that your breath is uneven, shallow, or rapid. If you slowly shift that pattern and allow your breath to become more deep, slow, quiet, and regular -- which characterizes the state of being more relaxed -- you can begin to move your body into the Relaxation Response.

With the Relaxation Response, you create an experience in your body that is more relaxed. This change in the pattern of breathing relays a message of safety and non-emergency to the brain, which enables the brain to "stand down" from its state of vigilant emergency and switch off the Stress Response.

Relaxed, Soft-Belly Breathing

As you allow your breath to shift in the direction of deep, slow, quiet, and regular, see if you can also begin to let the breath move more deeply down in to the belly. Notice if your belly is tense. If so, let it become softer. Then breathe into that softness. This soft-belly breath is another way of experiencing the relaxation response.

Be Mindful of the Breath

See if you can mindfully notice what is happening with your breath. Allow yourself to fully feel the physical sensations of breathing, making mental noting of the in-breath and the out-breath. This concentration allows you to become more centered, grounded, and peaceful.

Slow, Deep Breathing Creates Relaxation

Slow, deep, controlled breathing can quiet both body and mind. For instance, if you feel stressed, slowly breathe in and out for a number of minutes. The deeper and slower that you breathe the greater the relaxation you will experience.

Deep breathing is an easy and practical method you can use to relax, It is a central component in several other relaxation techniques. You can practice deep breathing just about anywhere, and it's easy! Simply take 10 deep breaths, completely filling your lungs, followed by a complete release of that breath. Each time you take a deep, full breath, your body will relax just a bit more, and you can feel the tension and tightness begin to flow out of your muscles.

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