As psychological stress in our lives keeps growing, breathing in our activities is becomes increasingly shorter and faster, that is, we tend to inhale less oxygen as we exhale more. This causes our body to become quickly tired because of low blood flow due to the small amount of oxygen and the high levels of carbon dioxide. In turn, the physical fatigue stresses the muscles that support the spine and the weight of our body, generating unnatural pressure on the lungs and other internal organs. For its part, the brain, not receiving adequate amounts of oxygen, begins to reduce performance, and this causes drowsiness among other problems. Further, the diaphragm, when not working properly, makes little effort and loses tone, thus contributing to the reduction of lung capacity.

That is why it’s very important to learn to breathe properly, with simple exercises and frequent practice. Before going on, I recommend to review my previous post on mindful breathing. Now I’ll present here a simple routine for stress relief through breathing. Remember that breathing is especially important for those who suffer from stress, high blood pressure, anxiety or digestive problems. These symptoms and problems are typically the result of the body staying in conflict due to an disequilibrium of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. As our body is burdened with stress, our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated so often that it begins to dominate the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in chronic elevated blood pressure and heart rate, nervousness, anxiety and muscle tension, bowel problems. In this sense, the goal of this breathing exercise cleanses the body of diseases, steadies the mind, helps in concentration, improves digestion and increases appetite. The exercise can also be done anywhere and at virtually any time:

  1. First locate a quiet and comfortable place. Make sure the room is not too bright. If you prefer to play music, choose relaxing themes and set them to a reasonable volume level.
  2. Sit or stand in a relaxed position.
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five in your head. As you breathe, let your abdomen expand outward, rather than raising your shoulders. This is a more relaxed and natural way to breathe, and helps your lungs fill themselves more fully with fresh air, releasing more old air.
  4. Let the air out from your mouth, counting to nine in your head as it leaves your lungs. If you like, you can make your throat a little tighter as you exhale so the air comes out like a whisper. This type of breathing is used in some forms of yoga and can add additional tension relief. Try for several breaths to make your breathing as quiet, slow, regular and deep as possible. Repeat the exercise several times (at least 10 times).

This simple exercise can also be used for meditation and visualization.

Closing tip: If you need quicker stress relief, try inhaling slowly, holding your breath for about 2 seconds, and then exhaling slowly. Repeat this process twice.