Paying attention to your breathing is one of the most fundamental ways to relieve anxiety and tension. 

Debra Stork,  Chartered Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, describes a couple of simple ways to improve your breathing.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor, put one hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest, and see which one raises when you breathe in.

If it is your chest that is rising, it probably means your breath is shallow (most of us do).  This type of breathing may contribute to an increase in anxiety and tension.

Imagine now that you have a balloon in your stomach that you are trying to fill in with air.   As you take your next breath in through your nose, feel that breath of fresh air going all the way down into your stomach to fill that balloon and you will feel your stomach rise.   As you breathe out, imagine you are blowing out a candle and allow the stomach to relax.

When you breathe this way your diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle, moves down and pushes your stomach out as you breathe in.  Practise breathing more deeply until you can get your stomach to rise consistently on the in-breath.

7/11 Breathing

Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor and begin diaphragmatic breathing (as above). 

  1. Breathe in for a count of 7
  2. Then breathe out for a count of 11

This can be challenging to achieve straight away, so start with smaller counts. You could try breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 6.  Increase the count as you get more practice.  Repeat 3-4 times. 

Square Breathing

Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor.  Begin diaphragmatic breathing (as above). 

  1. Breathe in as you count to 4
  2. Hold your breath to the count of 4
  3. Breathe out to the count of 4
  4. Count to 4 before breathing in again

It can be helpful to rest your eyes on each side of the square for steps 1-4.  Repeat 3-4 times.

If you suffer with any breathing difficulties, please consult with your GP before undertaking any breathing exercises.
Page last reviewed on 13/07/2018

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