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Deep Breathing for Calm: 2 Easy Techniques

Deep breathing is highly effective at reducing stress quickly and boosting physical and mental health in the longer term. Here, I share my two favorite deep breathing techniques for calm: belly breathing and 3-Part Yogic Breath. Simple and impactful!

Woman holding her hands on her heart

My daily meditation practice grew out of some amazing advice from a very mind-body focused therapist. To help me reduce my stress and build a mindfulness habit, she wanted me to simply take 10 deep belly breaths every time I remembered to, or when I felt especially stressed.

In just a few weeks, the habit stuck because the practice was so simple...and so effective! Deep breathing shifted me out of my overstressed brain, even if just for a minute, and back into my body, into my inner calm. I loved the way it made me feel and soon craved deeper experiences.

Just a few years later, I'm a devoted daily meditator and full-time teacher of mindfulness, meditation and other stress-reduction practices. And as I've built my personal practice and my professional toolbox, deep breathing remains an absolute staple.

Why? The techniques are easy to learn and practice, can be done anywhere by almost everyone (check with your doctor first if you have serious health issues or questions). They give us something extremely tangible to focus on, making the practices easier for beginners and those who find quieter, "slow your thoughts" meditation styles challenging. And they're AMAZING for our physical and mental health.

What are some health benefits of deep breathing?

  • It reduces stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms.

  • It lowers blood pressure.

  • It increases heart rate variability.

  • It boosts focus and alertness.

How can I practice? Two deep breathing techniques for calm:

Ready to practice? Here are my two favorite deep breathing techniques for calm:

Belly breathing is the simplest deep breathing technique, and deceptively powerful! In his book "The Art of Living," Buddhist monk and beloved mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes it as a way to"bring our mind down to our trunk, our abdomen, where it is calm and stable. We should not stay high up in the branches where we are blown about."

I love this metaphor and frequently share it with students. For me, belly breathing does shift my energy out of my anxious, thought-ridden head and back into my grounded body. See what you think!

To practice:

  • Find a comfortable position for your body, seated or lying down.

  • Take a moment to relax your muscles, your body into your seat or the floor.

  • Bring your attention to your low belly (and maybe even your palms!).

  • Start to focus on the feeling of your breath in your belly. Relax your abdomen to fully welcome the breath. If your hands are there, feel your palms sooo gently welcoming the breath in...and so gently allowing it to flow out.

  • If your mind wanders, keep bringing your focus gently back to your breath.

  • If it's helpful in maintaining your focus, you can count the breaths from one to 10 (one count is a full inhale and exhale), either stopping after 10, or continuing the count over again as many times as you like. Or some people prefer to repeat a simple mantra like "Breathing in, breathing out..."

  • Before concluding, pause and notice how you feel. There's no right or wrong. Learning to observe more is a key part of the practice!

2. 3-Part Yogic Breath (Dirga Pranayama)

This type of deep breathing, an ancient technique and mainstay of yoga classes, is just one step beyond belly breathing. It's still very simple, and/but to me, it gives me an even greater sense of inner space, of clearing out.

To practice:

  • Get comfortable, seated or lying down.

  • Let your body and muscles relax for a moment.

  • Bring your attention to your low belly and feel the breath drawing deep into it.

  • Continue allowing the breath to fill the abdomen from the low belly to the ribcage, and finally up to the upper chest.

  • As you exhale, let the breath empty first from the upper chest, then ribs, then belly.

  • Repeat for a minute or as long as you like (maybe 10-15 minutes).

  • Return to your natural breath before concluding your practice, and notice how you feel and any shifts.

Both of these breathing techniques can help us reconnect to the peace and calm that's already inside help us get out of our heads and back rooted in our bodies, grounded once more.

If you don't feel the effects the first few times you practice, keep trying over time, different times of day, and for longer durations. It can take time to feel comfortable with the techniques and build our bodily awareness to notice the impacts.

Questions? Comments? Let me know what you think of the practices and if you experience any renewed calm and clearing from them!


If You'd Like to Try a Guided Practice: I have a 10-minute recorded Dirga Pranayama practice available for Monthly Members and for purchase in my On-Demand Library. I also frequently incorporate deep breathing into my live Feel-Good Friday Online Meditations and in-person classes!



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