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Three easy breathing exercises to create a sense of calm

We all breathe all the time don't we? So you can be forgiven for wondering what's so special about 'breathwork' or 'breathing exercises'. Why turn something that comes so naturally into 'work'?

For me the key lies in your intention - if you just want to survive, keep going, make it through the day - then yes, your breathing is probably doing exactly what you need it to. But for me the magical thing about your breath (if keeping you alive isn't enough magic for you) is how something which is so easy to control (for most of us, in most circumstances) can have such profound effects.

Woman with hand on chest, eyes closed and a calm expression
Finding calm through belly breathing

The breathing techniques you use don't have to be complex & you don't have to spend a lot of time on them, but that unbeatable combination of simple yet effective is seeing exercises like box breathing & the golden thread breath being used in pain management strategies & recommended to help relieve anxiety, as well as appearing in yoga & meditation classes.

My purpose here is to introduce some of the breathing exercises which I find helpful in creating a sense of calm, so the science is for another day. An incredibly simplified explanation though is that slow, deep, even breathing can help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. It brings you into that state of 'rest & digest' that so many of us struggle to get back to in a world of constant stimulation, so helping you to find that calm place of your own.

Without further ado here are three of my favourite breathing exercises. Give them a go, & let me know in the comments if you find them helpful - or if you have different favourites!

Belly Breathing

Officially known as diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing (or abdominal breathing) involves breathing in deeply so that your diaphragm moves & your abdomen pushes outwards (as though the air's gone all the way down into your belly) & then using your abdominal muscles to gently 'push' the air back out again.

It might be easiest to try this lying on your back if you've not done it before - I'd suggest lying in 'constructive rest' - where you have your knees bent & feet flat on the floor, around hip distance apart. If your chin pokes up in the air try to gently lengthen your neck to bring it down again, or rest your head on a pillow or small yoga block if that feels better for you.

Place one hand on your belly, & the other on your chest, & breathe in slowly (through your nose if you can). Imagine that you're inhaling right down into your belly, so that the hand resting on it moves up.

Once you've reached the end of your inhale, gently tighten your abdominal muscles as you slowly breathe out (either through very lightly pursed lips, or through your nose), letting the hand fall again.

Throughout the exercise try to keep the chest as still as possible, so that the hand resting there isn't really moving.

You can try this exercise sitting up too, either on a chair with both feet flat on the floor, or sitting in a cross legged or similar style. It strengthens the diaphragm, helps to increase lung capacity, & can help you to relax through slowing the breath & potentially reducing both heart rate & blood pressure.

Golden Thread Breath

Grounding Breath

If these exercises helped to create a sense of calm for you then don't forget to download our handy pdf guide, or sign up to the online course if you want to find out a little more!

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