Belly Breathing for Relaxation

breathwork relaxation stress yoga

It is well known that stress can cause and exacerbate a plethora of physical and mental health issues, and that one of the best ways to reduce it is by frequently and purposefully relaxing the mind and body. This means setting aside time to to fully inhabit a space of rest and renewal, rather than just taking time away from work and responsibilities. While at first this can seem like just another task to add to your list, a meaningful relaxation practice will soon prove to be well worth the initial effort. Additionally, breathing practices such as this are a great way to prepare your body for a restful sleep; try adding a few rounds of belly breathing to your nightly routine to improve your sleep quality!



The essence of relaxation is to downregulate your sympathetic nervous system (aka your fight or flight response) so that the body and mind can enter states of maintenance and repair. There are many ways to do this, but a good entry point is through the breath. Breathwork is an established wellness practice in ancient yogic systems and continues to be used today in modern medicine and other wellness practices. In yogic systems such as Ashtanga Yoga, controlled breathing practice is referred to as Pranayama; “prana”, meaning your life energy or shakti which exists in the breath, and “yama”, meaning the suspension of breath. 


Belly Breathing

It is common to hold stress in the thoracic region, with muscle tension occurring in the shoulders and neck. It is also common to experience stomach cramps which can sometimes be traced back to clenching the abdominal muscles. Belly breathing encourages the body to completely relax these areas while also increasing lung capacity thereby bringing more oxygen to the brain which can help with alertness. 


How to Belly Breathe

A good way to start is lying on your back, but standing works as well. Begin by closing your eyes, and consciously relaxing your muscles. Let your jaw unclench, release tension from your face. Breathe normally for a few rounds of breath, letting each exhale bring you deeper into a calm state. Now you’re ready for belly breathing:

  • Inhale through your nose, letting your abdominal muscles relax and your belly expand outwards. Imagine air filling your belly and continuing to fill your lungs from the bottom to the very top, where you sip in a little bit more air through your nose.

  • Pause for the count of 3

  • Open your mouth and exhale fully, letting your belly come back down, and engaging your abdominal muscles at the bottom of the exhale to press all the remaining air out.

  • Pause for the count of 3

  • Continue for 5-10 rounds

  • Return to normal breathing for a few rounds before moving on with your day

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