Breathing & Relaxation Exercises

Breathing & Relaxation Exercises

We often take breathing for granted. We all do it, or do we? Poor breathing habits stop the flow of oxygen coming in and stop the waste product of carbon dioxide from leaving the body. If you don’t have a good flow of these gases to and from your body, it becomes harder to deal with stressful situations.

FACT - Some breathing patterns may contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, muscle tension, headaches and fatigue.



Take a second to notice your breathing. Is it easy for you to do? Now that you are paying attention to your breathing, you may notice that with your out breath, a sense of pleasure or relief.

There are two main types of breathing (would you believe!)

1) Chest or thoracic breathing – this is a very shallow breathing pattern where you may inhale air, your chest expands and the shoulders rise to take in the air.

2)Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing- this is where you breathe in and you can feel your tummy/abdomen grow/expand.

Notice which you do…. 

Chest breathing or breath holding can actually increase the likelihood of chronic stress, tension, poor posture, painful feelings, or long periods of focused attention in which people forget to breathe regularly.

Abdominal breathing is more helpful for us. It is deeper and slower than shallow chest breathing, and is rhythmic and relaxing. It also helps us to balance oxygen and carbon dioxide better as well as keeping a normal heart rate, reduce muscle tension and anxiety present with stress related symptoms or thoughts.

Lets master breathing

Practicing breathing through the day, and over a course of a few weeks can provide excellent benefits for your health and well being.

Preparing to do breathing exercises:

  • Choose a time to learn the exercises when you wont be disturbed
  • Practice practice practice! Try getting into a routine, same time and place.
  • Choose a position which suits you:flat on back, palms up; on back with knees bent; in a chair sitting upright  with your bum all the way to the back of the seat.


Before beginning your breathing, scan through your body, notice any tension, and move until you are comfortable

Audio clip??? Page 32 –how do I breathe; doing abdominal breathing.

Progressive relaxation

This section will help you to progressively relax all of the muscles in your body, and allow you to relax quickly in stressful situations

Deep muscle relaxation, when done well is as good as an antianxiety pill!

One theory is that when the body responds to anxious thoughts and events our bodily reaction is for our muscles to tense up. You then become aware that your tense, which increases you’re anxiety even further. For example, you start to think, why am I tense, what’s happening, what’s wrong with me? So… in other words, if we can relax our body, we are less likely to be overwhelmed by the anxious thoughts, and more able to face the situations they were afraid of.

Who this can help?

This strategy is used to help individuals who suffer muscular tension, anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, mild phobias and stuttering.

Learning how to master Progressive Relaxation


  • Lay down or sit comfortably in a chair
  • Listen to the options below, and see which form of tensing you’d like to try ** audio linksi


1)      Try active tensing- tensing a particular muscle group as tightly as you can without hurting yourself, and then release the tension (remembering to breath diaphragmatically)..

2)      Try threshold tensing

3)      Passive Tensing.


Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Can help us to become aware of tense muscles and relaxed ones. Once we know which areas are troubling us, it is much easier to target them and help them relax.
  • Once you know what areas are bothering you, you can focus on ‘release relaxation’ methods


This cuts out the tensing help, meaning it is quicker, and may be more useful for someone who suffers with a lot of pain.

Audio link. P 77


Rapid relaxation – relax in 30 seconds p80

Applied relaxation – relaxing quickly when in anxious situations. These are a few steps to help decrease anxiety in crisis and increase feelings of calmness and control.

You should already be aware of your stress warning signs from the introductory to stress section – link- if not----

The earlier we can notice these symptoms, the better chance we you have to cut the stress response before it builds.

So… as soon as you notice a sign of stress—you notice your breath, feel your heart leap or feel a flush of heat, begin these three steps:

a)      Take two or three deep, even breaths

b)      Think these calming words to yourself as you continue to breathe deeply:

Breathe in… relax….

Breathe in… relax…

Breathe in… relax…

c)       Scan your body for tension and contrite on relaxing the muscles that you don’t need for the activity.

Practice these steps. Try running up the stairs in order to get a response from your body. Now put the three steps into action.

This takes practice so keep a log of the improvements you make.