Deep Abdominal Breathing
for Stress Relief

Deep abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is extremely therapeutic and one of the top stress management tips. It also has a profound effect on the body, both physically and mentally.

I taught yoga from 1993 to 2017, so I taught my yoga students how to do this for 24 years. 

As soon as you use this technique:

  • The heart rate drops
  • Blood pressure decreases
  • The muscles relax
  • You bring the air to the lower part of the lungs where the oxygen exchange is most efficient
  • This oxygenates all the cells of your body
  • You activate your parasympathetic nervous system, or your relaxation response
  • Anxiety decreases
  • You gain a complete sense of control over our body, our emotions and the situation.
Deep abdominal breathing
diaphragmatic breathing

To completely De-Stress...
practice deep breathing while you stretch at your desk.

Observe a newborn baby or a newborn animal breathing. Notice how they naturally use this nice deep breathing. The abdomen rises and falls with each breath. As we grow we begin to change the way we breathe and eventually end up doing very shallow breathing using only the top part of our lungs. It is essential for us and especially for stress management to relearn how to breathe!

During deep abdominal breathing we always inhale and exhale through the nose. The nose is for breathing, the mouth for eating or talking. You might think that when you exercise you always exhale through the mouth. Yes, if you are doing cardiovascular exercise and you are getting out of breath you need to exhale through the mouth. But for deep abdominal breathing we inhale and exhale through the nose.

There are many energy lines or meridians that run through the body. The two main energy lines are called the Ida and the Pingala. These criss-cross the spinal column. When we breathe through the nose we connect more closely to these energy lines, bringing the body into a more deeply relaxed state.

How to Practice Deep Abdominal Breathing

Deep abdominal Breathing

Sit up straight and comfortably in a straight-back chair, or on a firm cushion sitting cross-legged on the floor, shoulders back, back straight, chin slightly in, feet firmly planted on the floor if sitting on a chair. It is important to have the spine straight so the air and energy can flow easily.

Or you can lie on the floor and feel your abdomen expand.

Inhale and exhale through the nose. And never hold your breath, that creates stress. 

As you slowly inhale the abdomen expands. Fill up the lungs, right to the top of the clavicles (collar bones.) As you exhale and empty the lungs, the abdomen goes back in. Again, slowly and deeply inhale, filling up the lungs, abdomen going out, followed by a long, full exhalation, emptying the lungs, the abdomen going back in.

Nothing is forced or exaggerated. We simply use the full lung capacity instead of doing the shallow breathing we usually do during the day.

It may feel awkward at first. You might think that as you inhale the abdomen should be going in. But it is the same as when you blow air into a balloon, the balloon expands. As we bring air into the lungs, the abdomen expands. If you like, you can try placing a hand on your abdomen to feel the movement of the abdomen, until you get the hang of it.

You can use this kind of deep breathing anywhere, anytime to immediately bring yourself into a more relaxed, calm state, better able to stay in control and respond to stressful situations.