Deep Breathing for Stress Relief -- Relaxation Exercises

Deep Breathing for Stress Management

An introduction to breathing exercises for stress reduction and a quick guide to free breathing exercises online, including relaxation, visualization and meditation techniques from university health centers and Harvard Medical School. The stress response involves all the ways your body prepares to deal with danger. Your stress response can result in high blood pressure, suppress your immune system and contribute to anxiety and depression, the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide reports. Through breathing exercises, you can reverse the stress response. Learn stress management and simple exercises you can use for reducing stress at home, at work and even while driving.

Meditation by h.koppdelaney Hartwig HKD
Meditation by h.koppdelaney Hartwig HKD | Source

March 2012 Update: Daily Deep Breathing Meditation Tips

  1. Take 10 slow, deep breaths before getting out of bed. Deep breathing provides oxygen to your brain and has a calming, centering effect.
  2. Perform a yoga practice, such as the Tibetan five rites from "The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth" or the salutation to the sun. (See sidebar) Performing a series of movements that improve circulation, flexibility and deepen breathing help you to start the day relaxed and in a grounded state.
  3. Pause to breathe during your work day. Take breathing breaks outside as often as possible, or simply shut your eyes at your desk or between tasks and take three or more complete, cleansing breaths.
  4. Set up a meditation place -- or two -- where you live. For example, place a cushion or seiza bench in a calm area of your home and one in your garden. A seiza bench is a low bench for kneeling that supports your body and helps you keep your back comfortable during meditation.
  5. Pause when you notice tension. Practice deep breathing with measured breaths: take three slow, deep breaths, counting to 10 on the inhale and the exhale.

Relaxation Response

Learning to breathe more deeply and use breath exercises to relax offers one of the simplest ways to reduce stress. Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist, developed techniques for triggering the relaxation response during the 70s at Harvard Medical School.

Many college health centers, community education centers, senior centers, hospitals and fitness centers include courses or workshops in stress-reduction and deep breathing exercises. Some workshops are free or low-cost. Similar resources online offer free instruction in deep breathing exercises.

Deep Breathing

Learning a group of breathing exercises offers you a variety of ways to relax. Short sessions help you recharge. When you have more time you can practice visualization and meditation with breathing exercises. Loyola University Maryland's Health Services website contains numerous links to stress-reduction and breathing exercise information. The site's Relaxation and Self-Care page focuses on teaching several breathing techniques in written form along with tips for stress-reduction. The group of exercises gives you a foundation of breathing exercises to practice.

The exercises include observing the breath, reverse breath -- starting from the exhalation, deep breathing using body awareness and visualization, counting breath to learn measured breathing, and meditation.

Visualization

Kansas State University Counseling Services has a free download of a deep breathing audio file. The website provides a text version as well. This deep breathing exercise combines deep breathing with visualization -- the practice of creating mental pictures to aid in relaxation. This exercise induces calm.

The breathing audio session from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill come in streaming audio or downloadable MP3 versions at no charge. This relaxation exercise guides you to slow your breathing and take deep abdominal breaths, focusing on the physical sensations of breathing deeply. Learning to distinguish between the stress response of shallow, upper chest breathing and the relaxation response of deep breathing from the belly helps you to relax more in day-to-day situations.

Relaxation Deep Breathing Tips

Make a recording of yourself reading the exercise slowly and practice with the recording.

Use awareness to practice breath control during your day. Notice when your breathing becomes shallow. Take a series of 10 slow deep breaths once each hour at the computer.

Practicing meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong or martial arts increases breathing awareness and develops deeper breathing. These practices can help to improve your body awareness and promote greater relaxation throughout your day.

Select a place to practice breathing exercises or meditation. For example, practice in the garden or a quiet area of your home.

Don't use relaxation or visualization audio while driving.

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

TotalHealth profile image

TotalHealth 4 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

Nice hub. I learned a few things I can certainly incorporate into my daily routine. Before going to bed I spend 15-20 minutes relaxing, doing light stretches and deep breathing exercises. It makes a huge difference to help center my focus and emotions. Thumbs up!


Ethan Green profile image

Ethan Green 4 years ago from England

Very useful. I especially like the idea of relaxation exercises before you even get out of bed. Might have to link this from my insomnia article.

Great stuff

Ethan


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Resting on your back with a hand on your abdomen can help you become more aware of breathing from the belly. Avoid raising your shoulders and focus on filling your lungs so deeply with air that your hand rises.

This exercise can cause light-headedness at first because of the greater amount of oxygen. It's best to do it when you can fully relax and don't have to jump up to do anything else for at least 15 minutes.


Vanessa Johnsson profile image

Vanessa Johnsson 4 years ago from Washington DC

I keep trying to improve my abdominal breathing for quite a while now, but it's so hard. Any good advice, since you are so well informed? Thanks


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 5 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Nurfninja -- I agree. We can choose healthy ways to deal with stress. Starting with a simple yoga routine such as the Sun Salutation or the five rites can help you make yoga part of your routine. The five rites only take me seven minutes. I put link with more information in the gray box below the picture at the top of this hub.


Nurfninja profile image

Nurfninja 5 years ago from Earth

Wow, chronic stress is such a prevalent issue today in first world societies, it's good to take a step back and take a deep breath.

Yoga sounds a little challenging but something I could definitely add to my daily regimen.

Everybody's got stress but not everybody deals with it in a healthy way!


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 5 years ago from Northern California Coast Author

Dagny --

Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment. November will be my two year anniversary of full-time freelancing. I take time for stress-reduction every day.


dagny roth profile image

dagny roth 5 years ago from Neverland

Very informative Hub..thanks!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working