In a world where so much illness is a product of stress, learning how to neutralize stress through the breath becomes a sacred tool for healing. Breathing is one of the most effective tools we have to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and soothe the mind. After you become accomplished at breathing practices, you will wonder how you ever lived without them.

In a world where so much illness is a product of stress, learning how to neutralize stress through the breath becomes a sacred tool for healing. Breathing is one of the most effective tools we have to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and soothe the mind. After you become accomplished at breathing practices, you will wonder how you ever lived without them.

Breathing is a great indicator of health. In moments of tension, we tend to choke ourselves of breath, gasping when we’re alarmed. Because of our inability to balance our big, busy lives with rest and healing, we tend to go to the sympathetic nervous system’s fight, flight, or freeze response, the body’s instinctual way of getting us out of danger when threat appears. In this state of threat, the breath is shallow, sometimes inaudible, and feels separate from the body. The trouble is, our sympathetic nervous system can go into this mode as a result of regular, everyday stress—not just when a predator appears. This is a challenging way to live, one that contributes to rapid aging and deterioration of organs, muscles, and tissues.

The great news is that there is a solution, one we can access easily if we are willing to learn. When we take a shallow breath, the breath only moves to the upper thoracic, the collarbone, which has limited benefits for our overall system. It is in this state of shallow breathing that we feel the breath as a burden instead of as a valuable healing tool. When we are separate from who we really are, we get frustrated by our breath’s attempts at waking us up. When prompted to take a deep breath, some people incorrectly have the instinct to clench their bellies during the deep inhale, constricting the lungs and leaving no place for the air to go. 

Let’s learn how to take a healing yogic breath instead!

1. Sit in a chair or on the ground in a position that allows your spine the ability to lengthen. Use whatever pillows or props you need to make this position as comfortable as possible.

2.   Sit tall and feel the crown of your head reaching toward the sky.

3.   Tip your chin just enough to lengthen the back of the neck, so your breath can flow freely.

4.   Place your hands on your belly and breathe as you normally breathe. Notice: Is your belly pulling in when you take a breath or is it pushing out? If your belly pulls in on the inhale, your breath will be shallow, with the air entering only the upper part of your lungs. When your belly expands with the inhale, your lungs inflate like a balloon and are filled with fresh air. This is the correct way to practice the Long Deep Breath.

5. Keep your hands on your belly as you practice. Inhale. Feel your chest lift and your belly and ribs expand. If your breath doesn’t make it to your belly at first, don’t worry. Allow it to go where it feels most natural, and over the course of time, work toward moving it deeper and deeper into your body. With practice and dedication, it will happen.

6.   Exhale. Feel your belly and ribs release and deflate, first from your belly and up to your chest. Let all the air from your lungs go.

7.   Start again.

8.   Repeat the breath for 3 minutes.

As you do this simple practice, meditate on where you have been holding pain and how much it has been troubling you. It might be physical, mental or emotional; use the breath to investigate its origin. Then ask yourself if you are willing to release it, soften to it rather than resist it. Ask yourself what would life feel like without it? How can I change the way I move, respond and feel to strengthen this part of me that has been hurting for so long? 


I hope this article was supportive if so, check out my book Inside: A Guide to the Resources Within. The book has 40 daily practices to guide you inside to happiness and health. Look for the Inside Companion Journal coming in December 2019
For more opportunities to interact with my work, please check out my coaching page and my workshops.