Breathing Exercises

Spending time purposely moderating your breath is another simple and free strategy to enhance health on many levels.  Controlled breathing practices have been part of most cultures over recorded history and medical science is rapidly re discovering and confirming the benefits. These health enhancing benefits range from improved concentration to managing stress via regulation of the autonomic nervous system.


Practicing regular, mindful breathing is the fasted way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which calms the brain. This is very useful for all stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks, increased pain to digestive disorders.  Focussing on how you breath with full and undivided attention is a mindful meditation practice. Breath counting is a useful tool for rapidly achieving a relaxed and focussed mind which sets the tone when commencing a meditation practice session.  


A simple exercise:  Breath counting- Just One breathing

To start, sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.

To begin the exercise,

  • Count “just” to yourself as you inhale.
  • Then as you exhale, count “one”.  Make the exhale a slow breath aiming over time for the length of the out-breath to be twice as long as the in-breath.
  • Next, inhale and say to yourself “just”.
  • Now exhale again and count “2” .
  • Inhale “just”…… exhale “3”……and so on up to “5.”

I suggest 3 rounds counting to 5 each time. You can do this as part of the beginning phase of a meditation practice or at any time during the day.   


Another simple exercise:  Box Breathing

To begin:

  • Inhale for a count of 5.
  • Retain and hold the breath for a count of 5.
  • Exhale completely for a count of 5.
  • Retain and hold the breath for a count of 5.

Start with 1 minute and experiment when to do this during the day.  Work up to 5-10 minutes a day.


Source: Lewis Institute