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  • Writer's pictureRachel Benbow

Breath work for health, relaxation, and anxiety reduction

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Breathing is fundamental to life. Many of us breath too shallowly and too fast. We can do a lot to improve our health just by improving our breath. Breathing techniques can also significantly assist with relaxation, and even reduce or prevent anxiety attacks.

The following breathing techniques are from the book, "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art," by James Nestor. I highly recommend the book to everyone.


This breathing technique is a very basic technique. It places the body into a state of peak efficiency, for the heart, lungs, and circulation are in a state of coherence. It also helps us to relax.

  • Sit up straight but remain relaxed. Sit with supports if needed. Relax the shoulders, and bely, and exhale.

  • Inhale softly for 5 seconds, filling the lungs from the bottom up.

  • Without pausing, exhale softly for 5 seconds.

  • Repeat at least 10 times. If you can not breath for 5 sec in/5 sec out, do what you can (Ex., 3 sec in/3 sec out) until you can build up to 5 sec in/5sec out.

Use Resonate Breathing as often as you can throughout the day whenever you remember it, or set timers to help you remember. Optimally, under normal conditions, Resonate Breathing should be our standard base line breathing pattern.


The Mini Breathhold is one of many techniques to train the body to breath according to its metabolic needs. Buteyko practitioners use this technique to help people reduce or prevent asthma and anxiety attacks. To do the Mini Breathhold you first need to asses your Control Pause.

Control Pause

  • "Place a watch with a second hand or mobile phone with a stopwatch close by.

  • Sit up straight

  • Pinch both nostrils closed with the finger and forefinger of either hand, then exhale softly out of your mouth to the natural conclusion.

  • Start the stopwatch and hold the breath.

  • When you feel the first potent desire to breath, note the time and take a soft inhale."

"It's important that the first breath in after the Control Pause is controlled and relaxed; if it's labored or gasping, the breathhold was tool long. Wait several minutes and try it again. The Control Pause should only be measured when you're relaxed and breathing normally, never after strenuous exercise or during stressed states."

Mini Breathholds

  • "Exhale gently and hold the breath for half the time of the Control Pause. (For instance, if the Control Pause is 40 seconds, the Mini Breathhold would be 20.). Unlike the Control Pause, do not hold the nose closed.

  • Repeat from 100 to 500 times a day" (broken into chunks to make it more manageable if needed).

"Setting up timers throughout the day, every 15 minutes of so, can be helpful reminders."

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