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7 Breathing techniques for relaxation

7 Breathing techniques for relaxation

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Breathing techniques are a very appropriate way of self-control and to help modify one's thinking. They are commonly used in psychological treatments against dysphemia, anxiety, insomnia, as substitutes for relaxation techniques more common, (with the advantage that they tend to be faster and cheaper), etc.


  • 1 Breathing according to our emotional state
  • 2 Basic tips for breathing exercises
  • 3 Basic breathing technique
  • 4 Slow abdominal breathing
  • 5 Breathing with air retention
  • 6 Retention technique with empty lungs
  • 7 Breathing counting
  • 8 Rhythmic abdominal breathing
  • 9 Slow breathing with visualization

Breathing according to our emotional state

A breath consists of 4 parts: Inspiration, retention of inspiration, expiration or exhalation, and retention with empty lungs after the previous exhalation. A person's normal breathing usually ranges from 16 to 20 breaths per minute. There is also a own way of breathing according to each situation or emotional state.

There is also an interesting and at the same time very practical curiosity: the attempt to practice a breathing similar to that which is characteristic of a certain mood, tends to induce that state in the practitioner, (although, and this is important, not in a necessary and absolutely deterministic way, since it is controlled by other factors such as the subject's own decision or will, confidence in the method, etc.). Thus, when an individual is angry he usually breathes quickly and superficially, which makes several deep breaths easier to calm him down. Insufficient breathing promotes anxiety, depression, tiredness, etc.

The fact of controlling breathing already produces control over one's thoughts, being a classical technique in various cultures for mind control. It is inadvisable to expect immediate results when practicing them, and although these may be depending on the case, it is also usual that months of constant execution are required, especially when it comes to pathologies, so hurry should be avoided.

Basic tips for breathing exercises

As a general rule to consider in the exercises, it is not advisable to exceed 30 minutes per day of practice, although in some cases you can practice more time, depending on the capacity of the subject, reaching 45-60 minutes per day. It is also not advisable to make an increase in time until several months have elapsed and make this increase gradually, otherwise its effect would almost certainly be detrimental. So that Respect time and not overtraining is very important. In any case, you should not exceed 60 minutes per day as a cap. There are also, a proper rhythm that is most appropriate for each person and that it is difficult to discover without the advice of someone more experienced or by rigorous observation.

Next we will explain some versions of techniques used in psychology with a certain regularity, along with other more unknown ones that are very useful and recommended, and that can be adapted for the occasion.

In all the exercises It will be inspired and expire through the nose, never through the mouth. It is advisable that they be done with the closed eyes To make it easier to pay attention. You can also count the number of breaths per minute, which will give more precision to the exercises.

There are several ways to relax the body and mind using respiratory control. It is useful to remember the basic principle that the slower the more the body and the mind relaxes and there is greater ease to combat anxiety, because this way of breathing automatically decreases heart rate and induces greater calm, facilitating the coordinated movement of the body and straightening it. Breathing slowly and deeply will tend to produce a state of relaxation.

Basic Breathing Technique

It can be done sitting, standing or lying down. It consists of trying to breathe simply more slowly than we usually do, that is, in decrease the usual breathing rate, for about 10 or 20 minutes, although it can be done for a longer time. Among its virtues it is worth mentioning that it works even against the panic attack and it’s a natural calming, fight insomnia and, depending on the type of person, it can be much more effective for relaxing than the usual relaxation techniques used in psychology, such as tension-relaxation, that of Schultz, etc., being normally faster and shorter than these, which is one of its great advantages.

Slow abdominal breathing

It is a variant of the previous one, it is also useful in many cases of panic and anxiety attack. To perform it, every time the person feels an attack or a sudden elevation of anxiety, they should sit down (if possible) and try to breathe at a rate of about 4 breaths per minute, (intuitively calculating if there are people in front), although You can also watch a clock to facilitate the maintenance of the rhythm. At this speed it is done one breath for every 15 seconds. Do this for about 5 minutes, although it may be less time depending on each subject, (remember that in respiratory techniques adapting to each subject is very useful and most convenient).

It is advisable that breathing be done "filling" the abdomen with air. There will be people who will not be able to do it at first. If it is difficult for someone to achieve that control, it is advisable to try at a somewhat higher rate, being able to perform several tests.

This exercise can also be done to feel better, as a feeling of calm and relaxation will usually occur. A simpler version: you can try to breathe about 20 times as slowly as possible, although never reaching the feeling of discomfort.

In general, according to various studies, the panic attack is reduced by a significant percentage, through the usual practice of slow and abdominal breathing, (trying to fill the lower part of the lungs with air, while the abdomen expands as if it were the one that filled with air). It is noteworthy that when this breath occurs after said attack, it is associated with a competitive response with anxiety: the response of breathing therapeutically.

Breathing with air retention

It is very deeply inspired and breath is held while we count to 10 (approximately 10 seconds), then the air is released very slowly, (it should be as slowly as possible, although the latter is not essential for it to work, so that it is slowly expelled, its positive effects can be appreciated). It is also very recommended to use when the subject notices that he is in tension.

Retention technique with empty lungs

Here we will use breath retention to relax. Breathe slowly for about 10 times, and then add this action: when expiring try to expel as much air as possible and hold with empty lungs as long as you can stand, this will be done about 20 times more. This exercise is very useful against insomnia.

Breathing counting

This way of relaxing is also quite simple, so it seems useful to teach it to people with brain or mental problems such as dementias, brain dysfunctions, hyperactivity, lack of concentration, people with mental problems due to advanced age, etc. The reason is obviously not because it is a treatment against these psychopathologies, but because it is simple to remember. It is even useful for intelligent people who do not wish to overload their memory by learning to practice them, because they are already supersaturated with intellectual work, such as students, researchers, etc.

It is inhaled by counting to a number (for example up to 5), and exhaled by counting twice the inhalation, (in this case 10). There is nothing more complicated to do. You can try several accounts like 4-8, 6-12,15-30, etc. Once again I advise you to try several until you find the most effective one.

Rhythmic abdominal breathing

Is about breathe rhythmically and abdominally, (notably expanding the abdomen, although comfortably). The inspiration and expiration time will be 3 seconds respectively, and approximately 1 second retention before performing each new inspiration or retention with empty lungs, achieving a rate of about 8 breaths per minute. This one too combat anxiety.

Slow breathing with visualization

This exercise is useful to teach to those who need to prepare to face situations in which they feel tense. Expel air through the mouth, so that you feel that most of it has been expelled, albeit comfortably. Now it is inhaled slowly until the lungs are full, the air is retained for 10 to 15 seconds, concentrating on the idea that the tension is going to be expelled from the mind, and expelling the air slowly realizing that it is thrown out of one. same, that is, that goes with each exhalation. Repeat until you feel better. I recommend this part a lot, since if you leave the exercise before noticing that you are less tense, the subject will not be able to easily associate a subjective sensation and perception of success with the practice, leaving it in a situation similar to that of behavioral extinction . Motivation is also very important. It is a suggestion that I extend to all the exercises, if possible.

Breathing techniques to improve mood and vitality

Breathing retention techniques


Van lysebeth, A. (1985). Pranayama To serenity for Yoga. Ediciones Urano, S.A. Barcelona

Davis, M .; Mckay, M. and Eshelman, E. (1985). Emotional self-control techniques Ed. Martínez Roca. Barcelona - Ramacharaka (1993). Hindu-yogi science of breathing. Ed. Humanitas. Madrid