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7 Breathing Exercises to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

We are taking about 20,000 breaths each day, including while we are sleeping.

This happens without us actually paying attention to it. It's one of the wonders of our body. Our heart beats, we breath in and out, we digest,... all without actively thinking about it.

Why is breathing right so important for our body and mind?

For many of us unfortunately shallow breathing seems to be normal. The body image of our society is one reason for it. Considering a flat stomach as attractive, leads to men and women holding the stomach muscles. Sometimes also clothing styles enforce shallow breathing, especially pants while sitting.

Restricting the breath actively or passively forces the body to switch from deep (belly) breathing to shallow (chest) breathing. This means that the diaphragm's range of motion is limited, leading to the lower part of the lung not being filled with air when breathing in. When this happens, you may feel short of breath leading to increased tension in your body and anxiety.

Good indicator is rising shoulders as deep belly breathing does not cause the shoulders to move, but chest breathing does.

Mindful deep breathing can counteract this and therefore I want to look at 7 different breathing techniques. They all can help reduce stress and anxiety. I actively use them whenever needed. And if you think you don't have time for them in your busy schedule? Especially then you need to take a few minutes to try them. You will feel refreshed and can tackle the rest of your day with a fresh and clearer mind.

The 7 Breathing Exercises:

A few months back I posted this video with 4 out of the 7 breathing exercises. Therefore I I included it here. The end I hope brings an extra smile to your day today.

A word of safety: If you start feeling lightheaded while practicing these techniques, which is not uncommon, take a break and breath normally.


1. Alternate-Nostril Breathing

The first time I was introduce with this technique was during the 30 day Yoga Journey called Breath with Adriene. But in order for you not to look through 30 lessons of yoga, I also add a link directly to her technique explanation. I use a little different finger technique, but that is totally up to you.

Like she says, 'Find what feels good' (for you).

How to do it:

  1. Find a calm place and have a seat.

  2. Position your right hand by bending your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky extended. This is known as Vishnu mudra in yoga.

  3. Then close your eyes or if preferred softly gaze downward.

  4. Take a deep breath in and then exhale to begin. Notice how you feel in this moment.

  5. Close off your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril.

  6. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.

  7. Open and exhale through your right nostril.

  8. Inhale through your right nostril.

  9. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.

  10. Open and exhale through your left nostril.

  11. Inhale through your left nostril. Repeat for about 10 times.

2. Belly Breathing

This technique is also called abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. As with the technique before, the name already indicates what is about to happen.

How to do it:

  1. Find a calm place and have a seat or lay down. I find that laying down makes it easier to breath in deeper.

  2. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. This will allow you to feel the movement.

  3. Relax your belly. No more tucking in and tensing the muscles.

  4. Then take a deep breath through the nose (both nostrils) and feel the air flow down into your lungs. You should feel your belly rise like a balloon.

  5. Once you exhale your belly will deflate. Your chest and shoulder at the same time should be relatively still.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 about 15 times.

3. Box Breathing

This technique is also called 4-quare breathing. To envision it, I added the graph on the left.

How to do it:

  1. Exhale to a count of 4.

  2. Hold your breath for a count of 4.

  3. Inhale to a count of 4.

  4. Exhale to a count of 4.

  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for about 3 to 5 rounds

With practice the count can be carefully increased.

4. 4-7-8 Breathing

This technique is also called relaxing breath, as it calms the nervous system. Be ready to be amazed, because it truly does work wonders.

You can try it lying down flat or with your legs up the wall in a 90degree angle to your upper body.

How to do it:

  1. Place the tip of your tongue up just behind your front teeth. Then exhale through your mouth completely.

  2. Inhale through your nose, while mouth is closed, to the count of 4.

  3. Hold your breath for the count of 7.

  4. Exhale fully to the count of 8.

  5. Repeat steps 2-4 about 10 times.

5. Lion’s Breath

Now this one is fun and relaxing. And as fun means, smiling, means additional stress reduction, I see it as a win-win.

The technique helps relax the muscles in your face and jaw, reduces stress, and improves cardiovascular functions.

How to do it:

  1. Spread your fingers as wide as you possibly can.

  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose.

  3. Open your mouth while sticking out your tongue as far as possible. Imagine you are a lion ready to roar.

  4. Then forcefully exhale, feeling the breath passing the root of your tongue. You will notice a "haaa" sound while doing so.

  5. Take a few normal breaths before repeating again for about 7 times.

6. Mindfulness Breathing

This technique doesn't come with a step by step instruction. It is all about being mindful. Take a few minutes, find a quiet space and have a seat or maybe lie down with your feet elevated.

Then breath in gently through your nose and feel how the air fills your lungs. If you notice thoughts rushing in, acknowledge them, but then let them pass. Keep your focus on your breath.

Then softly breath out and notice how your belly deflates and the air flows back out of your nose.

Repeat about 10 times or more. Afterwards take a few moments and scan your body. Do you feel a change? Where do you feel a change? Be kind to your body and hold on to the softness that the breathing exercise can bring.

7. Resonance Breathing

This is a slow breathing technique that can lead to breaths per minute to drop to 4.5 to 7. But that depends of course on every individual and the training of the technique. You do you. Don't watch a clock and don't count your breaths. You may set the timer, but then set it aside.

Your focus should be on the breath and the feeling of it alone.

How to do it:

  1. Find a quiet space and lie down on a mat, floor or bed and close your eyes.

  2. Close your moth and softly breath in through your nose to a count of 6.

  3. Then gently exhale again to a count of 6.

  4. Repeat the last two steps for about 10minutes.


Were these techniques helpful to you? Which ones was your favorite? Let me know your answers or any questions in the comments below!

Be you! Bee Happy!


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