Breathing exercise

(see the Stress Management Exercises page for an introduction)

Breathing Exercise

Below are instructions to practice a simple breathing exercise. Read the instructions alone and practice doing the exercise on your own, or ask a friend to lead you through the exercise by reading the instructions aloud, slowly, and with a relaxed voice.

Like anything you can practice, you may notice greater ease in maintaining your focus on your breathing as you practice this exercise.

1. Sit in a comfortable position with legs crossed on a comfortable pillow or cushion, or sit comfortably in a chair, with your back upright, but not stiff, so your breath can flow freely.

2. Close your eyes if it feels comfortable, or look low to the ground to avoid distractions. Rest your hands comfortably on your lap.

3. Begin by taking a deep breath in through your nose, and then release your breath out through your nose. Take another deep breath in, and exhale in your own time. Relax into your seat or cushion, feel the floor beneath you supporting you.

4. Now just breathe normally through your nose into your diaphragm – deep into your stomach. Focus on your breath as it travels in and out. At a natural pace, watch it flow in and out.

5. Focus your attention on your breath as it travels through your nostrils, in and out. You can also focus your attention on your diaphragm, as your chest and abdomen rise and fall.

6. Continue to breathe normally. In and out?. In and out. Focus all your attention on your breath as it travels into your body and out.

  • Spend time now simply observing your breath

7. If your mind wanders, just notice what your mind is doing. Maybe it is thinking, remembering, planning, or worrying. Be aware of this and redirect your focus back to your breath. Simply observe your breath.

8. If you notice anything in your body, whether it is pain, an itch, or tingling, just notice it as a sensation – neither good nor bad – and then redirect your focus back to your breath.

  • Continue to simply observe your breath

9. As you continue to breathe, if your mind wanders, simply notice it, and bring your attention back to your breath. Remember not to judge yourself if your mind wanders, it is the nature of the mind to wander and seek distractions. Just gently bring your attention back to the exercise, noticing your breath.

10. Simply feel each inbreath for its full length, and feel each outbreath for its full length, as if you are watching the ocean tide roll in and out. In and out.

  • Continue to simply observe your breath

11. You don’t need to think about your breathing or change your breathing – there is no right or wrong way to breathe – just simply watch your breathing and notice the sensations of your breath moving in and out. Like the tide, rolling in and out.

12. As we come to the end of this exercise, take a few moments to notice your body. Begin at your feet, and just notice any sensations, in your feet, your legs, your torso, your shoulders, your arms and hands, your head, and your face.

13. Take another deep breath into your diaphragm… and exhale. And one more deep breath into your diaphragm… and exhale.

14. When you are ready, you can complete the exercise by gently opening your eyes.