How To Take A Deep Breath

breathe Do you believe you know how to take a deep breath?  Before you read any further I want you to stop and check how you are breathing. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your abdomen. Now breathe in as you normally do. If the right hand goes higher than the left hand – you are breathing from your chest. If the left hand goes higher than the right hand- you are breathing from your abdomen. My guess is that most everyone reading this post will be a breathing from their chest. Sadly, the stress and expectations of everyday have forced us to change our breathing habits and as a result our breathing is shallow and often we may even find ourselves holding our breath. When we are under stress the sympathetic nervous system automatically kicks in and our breathing changes, heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up and muscles become tense. This involuntary act is only meant to be for a short while but prolonged stress and anxiety has made it that for many individuals this becomes the norm. Many of us do not realize we are not taking a deep breath.  Did you know that breathing is the only bodily function that we can do voluntarily and involuntarily? It is possible to teach yourself to breath differently and to become aware of your breath during difficult time. Today I am going to share a few exercises with you which have been beneficial to me. If these techniques are not helping you as much as you would like, I encourage you to search the internet for a technique you are comfortable with and brings you the most benefit. You may also want to consult with a yoga studio or other  health care practitioner. Abdominal Breathing Technique  (my acupuncturist shared this with me and calls it 6-7-8 breathing)
  • Again place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. Take a deep breath so that your abdomen is raising higher than your chest. This ensures you that you are fully expanding your lungs.
  • After exhaling through your mouth, take a deep breath in through your nose (imagining that you are drawing in all of the air in the room) for a count of 6. Hold this breath for a count of 7 or as long as you can (not exceeding the count of 7)
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As you exhale, feel relaxation and contract your stomach so that you are exhaling all of the breath. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations by completely exhaling. (Remember when you find yourself holding your breath, you are not exhaling).  You may want to practice slowly exhaling as many individuals have a tendency to quickly exhale.
  • Repeat this cycle for more times for a total of 5 deep breaths. Aim for a rate of one breath every 10 seconds (or 6 breaths per minute).
This technique is great for preparing to go to sleep, when you are feeling overwhelmed or simply are needing to slow down.
  4x4x4 Breathing
I have heard several variations of this breathing and the belief for most is that this technique helps to equalize and balance the body.
  • For a count of 4, slowly breath in through your nose
  • Hold this breath for a count of 4
  • Slowly exhale for a count of 4 through your nose
In a recent Women’s Health article, I read that Navy Seals are taught this type of breathing and are encouraged to do it for four minutes. I typically do not time myself but wait until I am feeling more relaxed.
  As mentioned earlier, there are various techniques which work better for some than others and you can find a few here.
Slow yourself down today and take a deep breath. 
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  1. Anne @ Love the Here and Now on March 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    This is so timely for me…one of my daughters is going through some stiff right now and we were just saying last night that as silly as it sounds to her, she needs to learn to take deep breaths. I am not kidding. This is perfect. Can’t wait to show her. Thank you!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2015 at 5:15 am

      Anne, I so hope this can help her. When life gets crazy we simply go into automatic pilot and forget the simple things – like breathing. We really do have to remind ourselves.

  2. Caroline @ In Due Time on March 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    crazy timing!!! My chiropractor was JUST showing me how to do this method last week – I had never heard/seen it before!!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 22, 2015 at 5:15 am

      I’m finding there are several different methods and that each method can work at different times. Hope it helps you!

  3. on March 23, 2015 at 7:48 am

    i breathed through my abdomen! i have definitely needed these breathing techniques with all that has been going on lately.

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 23, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Just remember these when your day gets crazy or you are feeling overwhelmed/sad/crazy – or even when you can’t sleep. I use the 6,7,8 to fall asleep sometimes. Just take care of yourself.

  4. Sarah @ Seriously, Sarah? on March 23, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    I have an app on my phone that lets me set how long I want to breathe in and out (I think it was free!). I really love it. I tried to do it before bed, when I remembered. I use a program called HeartMath on my computer to do biofeedback, which is like a lot more complicated version of that, in the mornings (now – it’s a goal it to it every single morning). But, I used to kind of roll my eyes when doctors would talk to me about breathing and all of that, but the more I’ve done it, the more it helps!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 24, 2015 at 4:02 am

      Sarah – I get the same eye rolls from my clients when I ask them how they feel they are breathing? Many times I am able to note that they have let out several sighs (which is a sign of holding breath). There are some good free apps that help people to practice. I hadn’t heard about HeartMath. I’m glad you are feeling and seeing the difference.

  5. Ann Odle on March 24, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I have become hyper-conscious of my breathing, after losing my mom to Pulmonary Fibrosis (lung disease). I used to be better at doing breathing exercises, but life has a way of interrupting our good & healthy intentions. I’m going to check out that app from Sarah; and work on my breathing on a more regular basis!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on March 24, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Oh Ann, it makes sense that your breathing has changed. After a death it becomes so difficult to keep up the healthy intentions. I hope the app can help you. If you don’t find that app is beneficial know there are others out there. Take care of you!

  6. Sarah @ Sometimesphotojenik on April 7, 2015 at 12:51 am

    This is excellent. I know about the benefits of deep breathing but I SO often forget to do it- especially when I’m at work. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately so I’m going to try that 6-7-8 breathing!

    • Sheryl @ How to Make a Life on April 7, 2015 at 7:55 am

      With your crazy schedule right now, I’m sure your body doesn’t know what it’s doing. I constantly have to remind myself to breath, stress just changes everything about our bodies.

  7. Mindful Memory Keeping on June 1, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    The breath, oftentimes with extended out breath, is key for mindful awareness. The techniques you’ve shared here are great. Through my own mindfulness journey I’ve begun breathing through my belly to re-center myself during the day and it really makes ALL the difference =)

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