Meghna was sitting curled up on her couch, eyes staring into space and mind full of thoughts – “Will I be able to meet my deadline at work? Nisha’s exam is in the coming week and I don’t think I have spent enough time with her…Need to go grocery shopping before the in-laws come in… Have I been exercising enough? I don’t think I slept too well last night…”

She felt that her head might explode. “I need some fresh air,” she thought and got up and went into the balcony. The cool breeze hit her, she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She slowly felt the weight on the head and chest reducing. Breathing became easier and her mind, less muddled. She was thinking clearly now and decided to start by making a list and planning her day.

We all have experienced such days. Times when we feel really stressed and are not able to think clearly. Have so much on our hands and don’t know where to begin. Stress is something that cannot be completely avoided, but there are many methods that help you handle it better.

Controlled breathing for stress relief

The primary role of breathing is to absorb oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse.

Fortunately, we do have the power to change our breathing which in turn helps us relax and manage our stress. This is called controlled breathing. Apart from reducing stress, controlled breathing also helps to

  • Reduce blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduce the levels of stress hormones in our body
  • Balances the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Increases energy

Breathing techniques

Here are breathing techniques that will help you relax. Follow them in the order mentioned. This works best when sitting on the ground, crossed legs with your eyes closed and your hands on your knees in Dhyana Mudra. You can also rest your back against the wall or even sit on a chair – the key here is to keep your back and neck straight and sit comfortably. Also, read some tips to know before you start yoga

Normal breathing

Start with normal but conscious breathing.

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Breathe and expand your belly
  3. Breathe out and let all the air leave your lungs
  4. Repeat

Abdominal breathing

  1. Keep one hand on your chest and the other on your belly
  2. Take a deep breath through the nose ensuring that the belly (diaphragm) and not the chest is expanding
  3. Take in enough air to create a stretch in the chest
  4. Breathe out through the nose while you notice the diaphragm contract

Abdominal breathing involves slow deep breathing. With practice, you will be able to feel the tension leaving the body while breathing and feel a state of physical relaxation

4-7-8 breathing

In this technique, you breathe through the nose and breathe out through the mouth. Sit straight, crossed legs with hands in Dhyana Mudra.

  1. Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4
  2. Hold your breath until a count of 7
  3. With your lips in a loose O shape, breathe out slowly making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.

Alternate Nostril breathing

In this technique, you breathe in through alternate nostrils. Sit straight with your left hand in Dhyana Mudra.

  1. With your right thumb hold your right nostril and breathe in through the left nostril
  2. Then place your right ring finger on your left nostril and release your thumb from your right nostril.
  3. Slowly breathe out through the right nostril
  4. Now breathe in again through the right nostril.
  5. Slowly place your right thumb on your right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril.
  6. Breathe in again through the left nostril and continue this alternate nostril breathing

These breathing techniques are very simple, and you can start by practicing each of them for 30-45 seconds and gradually increase the time. Two minutes of each of them daily are ideal to help to reduce stress and make you feel fresh. The key here is trying to concentrate on your breathing and to avoid any thoughts coming to your mind and you will notice how with every breath you release you feel lighter, fresher and full of energy.

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Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash, Photo by Max Rovensky on Unsplash, Photo by Form on Unsplash

About Author

Sabeeka Lambe

I have been working in the software technology services space for over 15 years. In my professional life I help in implementing quality standards like ISO, CMMi & Six Sigma to make developers and testers jobs easier & process oriented. Through this blog I am sharing similar techniques coupled with age old wisdom from my mom and grand mom to make our living healthier and medicine free. To work in any new field, it helps if you read and train too, and I did the same. Have got a diploma in Naturopathy from Mumbai to enhance my knowledge and skills on this topic that I am passionate about


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    Deep breathing definitely helps to calm the mind. My father always sees that the Gayathri mantra is meant to regulate our breathing style. Thanks for a detailed discussion on breathing techniques.

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