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5 Breathing Exercises To Help You Relax

Updated on February 28, 2016

Finding time in your day is difficult - life is hectic, throwing various challenges and unexpected events your way, normally when the stress and time limits of your day make everything seem a bit too unbearable.

Pranayama or breath control will enable you to let go of anything restraining you, concentrate on the present moment and appreciate the breath and its valuable gift of life. Breathing exercises are a great way to tune in to yourself and relax for 10-20 minutes. We rarely consider the breath, however it is undeniably at the core of our existence. Concentrating on the breath can help when you feel lost and out of control, helping to ground you and clear your mind of anything weighing you down or making you anxious.

Here are 5 easy breathing exercises to help you relax at the end of a pressured day.

Equal Breathing

So simple yet incredibly effective - equal breathing is an exercise which consists of even, balanced breaths to help calm the mind.

  • breathing through the nose, inhale deeply for 4 counts
  • exhale through the nose deeply and equally for 4 counts
  • repeat

When you're practiced in this simple breathing technique, you can aim for longer periods of breath. This exercise is perfect for those who have trouble winding down and getting to sleep.

Alternative Nostril Breathing

Life can cause undue stress and pressure, causing you to feel as though you're living up to the expectations of many different people, from your family to your boss at work. Nerves and anxiety can be easily triggered, so if you're prone to such bouts of nervousness, try this calming pranayama which'll help you to keep calm and focus in any situation.

  • keep your mouth closed throughout this exercise
  • hold your right hand up and place your right thumb on your right nostril, gently allowing your middle and second fingers to rest on your brow
  • ensure your right thumb is covering your right nostril and exhale deeply out of your left nostril
  • keeping your right thumb in place, inhale slowly through your left nostril
  • now gently remove your right thumb from your right nostril and cover your left nostril with you little finger - you can keep your fingers resting on your brow
  • now, exhale deeply out of your right nostril and then inhale slowly through your right nostril
  • repeat this routine until relaxed

The ease of this exercise makes it accessible wherever you are be it at work, in the car (please not when driving), before a social engagement or even whilst waiting for the bus. Allowmyourself to concentrate on the breath, let go of wandering thoughts and appreciate the difference you feel in yourself on finishing your exercise.

Cooling Breath

This is one of my favourite pranayamas, especially when catching the clammy tube in the morning before work. It's benefits are instantaneous, making you feel cool and calm in seconds.

  • gently part your lips
  • place your tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth
  • breathe in slowly through the mouth and feel the breath cool underneath your tongue
  • hold the breath for a couple of seconds, exhale through the nose and repeat

Perfect on a hot day or in even in a hot yoga studio, this adaptable exercise will refresh you straight away.


Belly Breathing

Perfect for grounding yourself before yoga practice or settling down to sleep, belly breathing can be exercised sitting up or lying down, whichever you prefer.

  • sit on a chair with a back or lie down on a mat
  • place one hand on your stomach, just below the bottom of the ribcage and the other on your chest
  • breath in deeply through your nose and feel your hand raise slowly with the belly
  • exhale through an open mouth as if silently whistling, lightly pressing the belly as if gently pushing the air out
  • repeat until relaxed

I always use belly breathing during my yoga practice. It quickly helps you fall in line with your natural breath whilst relaxing your whole body and grounding the mind.

Guided Belly Breathing

Counting Breaths

This is a slightly more challenging exercise but a very rewarding one to practise and aspire to accomplish. The key technique is to concentrate on the breath using a simple counting system to remain focused. Slow, deep breaths will eventually help you to become more mindful of the present.

  • sit upright with your shoulders relaxed and take deep inhale through your nose and then, allowing the breath to flow naturally, exhale and internally count '1'
  • repeat, this time counting '2' on your exhale
  • concentrate on how the breath feels against your nostrils and on your upper lip as you exhale
  • repeat until you reach '5' - this may be a bigger challenge than you anticipated, try to remain focused on the breath

The beauty of this exercise is how easily it helps you realise when your mind wanders and becomes otherwise engaged in what to buy for dinner or what happened in the office earlier... You'll realise instantly if you've lost count so if this happens, return to '1' and start the cycle again. Try counting to 5 to start with getting the hang of concentrating on your breath and drawing in the mind when it strays.


Guided Breathing Exercises


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      The belly breathing helps me to fall asleep at night. I put on some relaxing music, and lie on my back, concentrating on my breathing. My body relaxes and I am able to sleep. I use the equal breathing when stressed at work, then I am able to calm down and get back in the present when my mind starts racing.

    • imaabee profile image

      imaabee 2 years ago

      Thanks very much, I'm pleased you enjoyed it!

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 2 years ago from Uruguay

      The belly breathing is one I learned from a Lucinda Basset tape my mother gave me when I started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks many years ago and I still use it to this day, usually I fall asleep halfway through. Good hub ,voted up shared etc.