Breathing to Relieve Stress

Seniors meditating in a group exercise studio

Stress is an unfortunate reality of life. While we all seek to reduce the amount of stress in our lives, it is important to remember that we carry one tool with us at all times - the ability to breathe.

Taking just 5-10 minutes each day to focus on deep breathing can noticeably reduce feelings of stress. To help you focus on your breathwork, we've outlined a few simple steps for beginners.

Note: If you feel lightheaded at any time, discontinue this exercise.

  1. Find a comfortable position. You may feel comfortable sitting on a chair or the floor. Others may prefer to lie down on a bed or couch. The place you choose is not as important as your feeling of comfort and security.
  2. Close your eyes and place one hand on your abdomen - between your ribs and your belly button.
  3. Take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your lips.
  4. Take a second breath, focusing on your hand. Do you feel your abdomen expand when you inhale? If not, continue to focus on your abdomen as you inhale. It is important that your shoulders remain still and that your abdomen expand as you breathe in.
  5. On your next inhale, begin to count. Inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of four. Repeat this three times.
  6. The final step is to briefly pause between breaths. Inhale for a count of three, pause for a count of two and exhale for a count of four. Repeat this three times.
  7. Return your breathing to its normal pattern, open your eyes and sit for a few minutes.
  8. When you feel ready, slowly get up - making sure that you do not feel lightheaded.

You may repeat this exercise once or twice per day to loosen your body and reduce stress. Once you have the hang of it and feel ready to progress further, you can register for a mindfulness class at a nearby branch or on YMCA360.