Breathing exercises for relaxation: the practical guide to self-help

Written by: Konstantin Neumann



Time to read 7 min

Inner restlessness, anxiety, panic - these are all feelings that you encounter again and again in life. They are extremely unpleasant and can become a full-blown problem. If you decide to seek medical treatment, you will have the choice between a therapeutic approach, drug therapy or a combination. But is that enough to get you back to yourself and relax better? It varies from type to type. We would like to introduce you to some effective breathing exercises for relaxation.

What influence breathing has on your well-being

You breathe in and take in oxygen with the help of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Then, as you exhale, you remove used carbon dioxide from your lungs.

Have you ever noticed that you breathe differently during and after a scare? Imagine that a balloon suddenly bursts behind you. You involuntarily take a deep breath and hold it. Only when you relax again do you let the air flow out of your lungs. This is a completely normal process, because in the moment of shock, your sympathetic nervous system reacts immediately. This phenomenon dates back to our past, when people had to live on guard permanently.

However, this breathing technique was evolutionarily intended only for acute situations, not for long durations. But this is exactly what has happened. Due to pressure to perform and permanent stress, human breathing has changed, is more hectic, the sympathetic nervous system remains active. With breathing exercises for relaxation, you can succeed in activating your parasympathetic nervous system and thus fight against physical stress.

Abdominal vs. chest breathing - the crucial differences

How do you breathe? Rather shallow and not complete? This speaks for chest breathing, in which you draw air superficially into a part of your lungs and exhale again. In belly breathing, on the other hand, you breathe deeply into your belly, filling the entire volume of your lungs with air. If you want to reduce stress in the course of breathing exercises, this breathing technique is the best option!

In everyday life, a combination of chest and abdominal breathing is useful. It has a stress-relieving effect similar to breathing exercises for relaxation, but your body can also quickly get into a "guarded position" in acute cases.

Improving your own breathing - why breathing exercises for relaxation are also beneficial to your health

What happens to our body when we permanently breathe incorrectly? Quite a lot, but above all the oxygen content of the blood is affected. When you take deep breaths during your breathing exercises to relax, this automatically reduces your breathing rate. Your pulse rate drops, and so does your blood pressure. With each breath, you take in new oxygen and the carbon dioxide that has been used up is removed more quickly.

With chest breathing, which is not harmful in the short term, you breathe faster. This automatically makes you feel more rushed and stressed. If you want to achieve relaxation with a breathing exercise, slow and deep breathing is the key.

Make sure to breathe deeply into your belly and change your breathing technique occasionally, even in everyday life. Especially in stressful situations, when you don't have time for breathing exercises to relax, this can help you to bridge the gap. Try it out actively and see if this breathing technique calms you down.

The top 5 breathing exercises against stress

You want to try breathing exercises for relaxation against stress yourself? Then check out these top 5 best techniques now and learn how to help yourself achieve more serenity with controlled breathing.

#1: Meditation, inner peace and serenity - combined with breathing techniques

When you complete exercises in the course of respiratory therapy, they are often combined with other relaxation techniques. It is known that meditation enables relaxation, letting go and well-being. When combined with breathing exercises for relaxation, you may be able to fall asleep better, slide deeper into meditation, and experience maximum rest. Here is a simple guide on how to use a breathing meditation to relax:

  • Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and let your mind wander to the center of your body.
  • Feel inside yourself and focus on what emotions you are feeling right now.
  • Now focus on your breath, watch it, and just let it take its natural flow.
  • As soon as you think of something else, draw your mind back to your breathing and feel your belly fill up with the fresh oxygen. Counting slowly while you breathe will make it easier for you to concentrate. Just 15 minutes a day is enough to support your parasympathetic nervous system and relax you.

If you are unsure, you can also perform a guided meditation to help you relax. You can find corresponding meditation exercises with instructions on the internet for free and can perform them at any time. Many people use guided meditation to fall asleep when they suffer from insomnia. The subconscious mind deals with stress and issues that we have not yet processed. By distracting yourself, you prevent thoughts from constantly circling around them and can fall asleep better through guided meditation.

Meditation kann in Verbindung mit Atemübungen zur Entspannung wahre Wunder wirken

#2: Breathing exercises for stress - how to get rid of tension

Guided deep relaxation is designed to help you get rid of stress in the long run. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves in a situation where the stress is acute, or you even suffer from panic. For such cases, you need breathing exercises against anxiety that can bring you down within a few minutes. Also, when you are stressed, when you are full of anger and rage, you can use them to help yourself. Here are the instructions:

  • Sit in a comfortable position and place one hand on your chest and one on your nose.
  • Breathe through your nose, let your nostrils quiver and feel the air coming into your belly.
  • Pipe your lips as if you were whistling and now let the air escape very slowly.

This simple breathing exercise for relaxation can help you wind down in angry or hectic situations. This breathing technique can also induce relaxation during a panic attack.

#3: Breathing exercises to calm down - yoga techniques

Breathing exercises for relaxation also play an important role in yoga. The so-called alternating breathing can have a positive influence on your body and mind. Use it in stressful situations, it quickly leads many people to relaxation.

  • Alternating breathing means that you inhale and exhale through only one nostril at a time.
  • Close your right nostril completely with one finger and let the breath escape completely through the free hole. Now inhale deeply through the same nostril and close it.
  • Now exhale very deeply through the previously closed right nostril, and then inhale again.
  • Close the right side of the nose and hold your breath for a few seconds. The breath then flows out of the left nostril.
  • Repeat these breathing exercises at least ten times to achieve the best possible effect.

Such breathing exercises for relaxation are designed so that you can do them in between. Most of the time, we get under pressure and stress in unwanted situations. It is important that you have the right breathing techniques for relaxation in your repertoire.

#4: Prolonged exhalation - breathing meditation against stress

On average, you breathe in just as long as you breathe out. However, there are breathing exercises for relaxation in which you focus on exhaling. These have the purpose of relaxing your muscles and calming you down naturally. Since they are particularly easy to learn, you can use such breathing exercises for relaxation anytime and anywhere.

  • Close your eyes to focus on your breathing.
  • Inhale and count to three.
  • Let the air flow out of your lungs and count to six.
  • Double the time after ten breaths (six seconds inhale, 12 seconds exhale).
  • Perform the breathing exercises for relaxation for ten breaths each.

Through breathing techniques like these, guided meditation produces relaxation within a very short time. Your body relaxes, the muscles no longer seem as hard and tense as they did at the beginning. You yourself decide which breathing frequency is comfortable for you. Whether 3/6, 4/8, 5/10 - find out for yourself how it is most comfortable for you.

#5: Use holding your breath as a breathing exercise to relax

You know that moment of the day when you can't focus anymore? You're in a slump, dog-tired and exhausted, but bedtime is still a long way off. There are breathing exercises for relaxation that can consciously re-energize your body (and mind). One of them is holding your breath. It's fascinating how you can use breathing exercises to create relaxation and at the same time make your mind more alert.

  • Keep your eyes closed and sit comfortably.
  • Inhale for two seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and then blow it out for the same amount of time.
  • After one round, increase the time of breathing and holding your breath to three seconds, later to four, five, and so on.
  • You stop this exercise only when your condition is no longer sufficient.

Such breathing exercises for relaxation are perfect for everyday life and help you maintain control in difficult situations. You can use them individually, or combine them with other elements of relaxation, such as a session of yoga, or even your favorite microdosing.

Conclusion: Experience less stress with breathing exercises for relaxation

You feel like you’re under constant stress and often don't have five minutes to calm down? If you learn breathing exercises for relaxation, you always have a tool at hand. It doesn't matter when or where you do them, because hardly anyone can recognize breathing exercises from the outside. Even five minutes alone in the office are enough to perform a breathing exercise for relaxation.