Breathing Physio Therapy Yoga Exercises

Breathing Exercises to regulate the nervous system – why this is important and six different breathing practices and their uses.

1. Equal Breathing; 2. Diaphragmatic Breathing; 3. Progressive Relaxation Breathing; 4. Nadi Shodhana or “Alternate Nostril Breathing”; 5. Visual imagery; 5. Movement with the Breath

Breathing Exercises to de-stress and regulate the nervous system

Breathing can be an effective way to reduce anxiety. This advice does not substitute for getting professional help when needed.

Controlled breathing techniques can calm your mind and body, lower blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and ultimately help you de-stress. 

Deep breathing, such as focusing on the diaphragm, helps to strengthen lung function, release tension in your midback, and relax the nervous system helping it move to a “rest, digest and heal” state. Breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth, also helps to calm the nervous system.


1. Lengthen your Breath

Sit comfortably and observe your natural breathing, not trying to change anything. Then start to notice where in your chest you are breathing. Is it low down, or high? Can you feel your neck muscles helping you? How relaxed is your abdomen?

As you start to observe your breath, you may notice the breath in fact gets slower. This is good! How is it to breathe in vs breathe out? Is one longer than the otrher? Do you sigh a lot? So many questions! Keep going with watching your breath for 2-3 mins, then return to breathing naturally and observe if it has changed.  

When it works best: Anytime, anyplace— this is best practiced daily to build your mindful conscious breathing muscle. 

Level of difficulty: Beginner

2. Focus on your Diaphragm

How to begin: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, feel the air travel deep down in your lungs, slowly filling the bases – around your lower ribs. As this happens allow the belly to relax. As the diaphragm descends it pushes your abdominal organs down and your stomach will rise. As you breath out the stomach relaxes back. You are not breathing with your stomach! If you draw in enough air you may feel a comfortable stretch in the lower ribs.

Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly, then observe the rise and fall of your hands. Do both hands move in and out in unison? It is best if they do. The shoulders should stay relaxed, as the air moves down to the lower lungs. The goal: Six to 10 deep, slow breaths per minute (in for a count 4-5 and out for a count of 4-5) for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions in heart rate and blood pressure. Try it. Keep at it for six to eight weeks for more sustainable benefits.

When it works best: Before any stressful event, in the morning to wake up. But keep in mind, those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be surprised how hard it is to control the breath. Try short sessions, returning to your normal breath as you need to. Practice makes it easier.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

3. Progressive Relaxation

To ease tension from head to toe, close the eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for two to three seconds each. Start with the feet and toes, then move up to the knees, thighs, glutes, chest, arms, hands, neck, jaw, and eyes—all while maintaining deep, slow breaths. If you are having trouble staying on track, try breathing in through the nose, hold for a count of five while the muscles tense, then breathe out through the mouth slowly on release. Keep the exhalation at least as long as the inhalation.

When it works best: At home, at a desk, or even on the road. One word of caution: Dizziness is never the goal. If holding the breath ever feels uncomfortable, tone it down to just a few seconds.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

4. Balancing using “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

How it’s done: This breath is said to bring calm and balance to the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Hold the left thumb over the left nostril and inhale deeply through the right nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the right nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the left nostril. This is one round. Continue the pattern.

When it works best: In the morning before meditation, or anytime you need to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi Shodhana is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake.

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

5. Guided Visualization to switch off your mind

How it’s done: Head for your happy place, no questions asked. With a coach, therapist, or helpful recording as your guide, breathe deeply while focusing on pleasant, positive images to replace any negative thoughts. Guided visualization helps put you in the place you want to be, rather than letting your mind go to the internal dialogue that is stressful.

When it works best: Pretty much any place you can safely close your eyes and let go (e.g. not at the wheel of a car).

Level of difficulty: Intermediate.

While stress, frustration, and other daily setbacks will always be there, the good news is, so will our breath.


6. Breathe with Movement  

Movement with breath or Asana Yoga can really help bring your attention into your body and out of your thinking mind.

Increasing awareness, mindfulness, and being present in your body gives your mind a rest and in turn helps your body to relax. Many of us spend too long in our heads thinking and forget about the body. Try to resist the impulse to think too much, go with the flow of your movements.

How its done; lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your hands on both knees. As you breathe IN push your knees away from you until your elbows are straight. As you breathe OUT draw your knees back into your chest. Contine for 4-6 slow, even breaths in and out.

Level of difficulty: Beginner

Information in this article was compiled from multiple sources.