If you’re not breathing, you’re not living. Literally.

And if you’re not breathing well; you’re not living as well as you could be.

If you pay attention to your breath, you can learn a lot about how you’re taking life in.  The breath is an amazing instrument for reporting the state of your internal weather systems.  Take a moment to close your eyes and observe your breath.  How would you describe your current internal ‘weather’?  Calm, warm sunny skies? High winds and thunder showers?  Once you’ve answered the question, read on.

Your breath is the link between your conscious and unconscious mind.

Amazingly, by taking control of your breath you can exert a measure of control over the state of your mind and emotions – you can control the weather inside!

If you are living in a state of chronic stress, your breath is likely shallow, rapid and clipped.  You can actually choose to use shallow rapid breathing to induce a state of stress and anxiety, shifting your nervous system into fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system dominance).

Go ahead, try it!

You don’t want to live your life breathing this way.  When the sympathetic nervous system dominates, adrenaline goes surging through the blood stream overtaxing your systems, putting you on edge and impeding the body’s ability to repair itself.

Conversely, you can address states of stress and anxiety by breathing deeply into the belly.  This down-regulates the nervous system (activating the parasympathetic nervous system) and stimulates the body’s relaxation response.  When the parasympathetic nervous system dominates the body heals and repairs itself and the mental/emotional weather pattern is calm and still.

Breathe better; feel better; heal better; live better.

If we can choose how we breathe (and we can!), we should opt for deep, abdominal breathing in times of stress.

Watch our stress relief videos instantly.

Read how to breath away stress.

Read more about your diaphragm.

Amanda Tripp

It was love at first Sun Salutation for Amanda Tripp ... who was introduced to yoga as a teen when her mom brought home a video. Eventually, she sought out living, breathing teachers to help direct and deepen her practice. Her teachers have been inspirational; her yoga practice: transformational. Amanda felt the call to share the healing benefits of practice with others and completed a 250-hour teacher training program at the Yoga Centre of Burlington. Continuing studies led her to the work of Jill Miller and certification as a Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Amanda's classes speak to the body, breath, mind and heart as she guides students toward greater ease of being.

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Victoria Yoffie

During a recent lecture I attended, Doctor Andrew Weil suggested a breath technique that he claims, “is the single most effective medical intervention” he has ever discovered. He went on to say, “…The results I have seen this produce in terms of improvements in general health, of solutions to chronic health problems—chronic digestive problems to anxiety to insomnia to heart arrhythmias—is phenomenal.” With that glowing recommendation I added the technique to my everyday practice and have shared it with dozens of clients. The Preparation: 1. Keep your tongue in the yogic position: touch the tip of your tongue behind your… Read more »

Basak Gunaydin

Thank you so much for a great article. As a Fashion executive and life coach, I notice in business meetings and in private sessions with my clients, how people’s breathing changes their state of being, if they are in their mind and anxious or experiencing anxiety and negative emotions, their breathing gets shallow and when encouraged to take deep abdominal breaths with longer exhalation, they get to be more in their hearts and in touch with their true feelings therefore feel relaxed and more in control of their situation or whatever they are dealing with, at that moment. I exercise… Read more »

Rachel S

Great blog! As a mental health counselor and yoga teacher-in-training, I have become attuned to the body during therapy sessions and noticed that when my patient’s are talking about their pain, their breathing changes. I also notice that, at times, they sigh deeply into the belly, which is always such a wonderful thing to see…watching them unconsciously calm their nervous systems. Now, my job is to make that action conscious for them. I believe that with the consciousness you discuss, they can use it to heal their deep anxiety/depression on a more actively conscious level and create greater relief…and faster… Read more »

Celine Antoine

The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t take lot to actually feel the effects of the parasympathetic system being activated.
Living in New York City where stress is everywhere, deep belly breathing technique is a tool I use on a regular basis.

Cheryl

This is so nicely stated. Consciously extending the inhale/exhale during stressful situations throughout one’s daily life can really make a difference in how you respond. I even find if i’m ever having difficulty falling asleep at night, to try 4-part or square breathing — I usually fall asleep before the 5th round.

Matt Nadler

Our best friend, our own breathing patterns, for most of us is an area neglected. Why? Because we automatically have to breathe to stay alive. It’s sort of like our other internal organs that just go on working working without our direction. But what a special and valuable tool we have when we recognize that we can direct and control our breath. As a yoga teacher, I feel it’s imperative to remind the students numerous times throughout the class to breathe. And, if we’re adjusting someone, to listen to their breathing patterns while deeply breathing ourselves.

will cristobal

i too enjoy a good breath! as a power yoga teacher, i tell the students the meaning of power in power yoga is to have the power to control the rhythm of breath. if you lose the rhythm or control of the breath, you lose the power in the yoga. i also encourage our students to think about practicing ujjayi breathing the next time somebody pisses them off. for example, the next time a colleague or friend ruffles their feathers, just ujjayi the crap out of them.

Charleene

It truly is fascinating to see how different kinda of breathing can really make a difference in stress, life, and exercise. I’m thrilled to learn all these new breathing techniques and see how powerful a breath can be.

Matt Sharpe

I’ve been taught that you can engage the parasympathetic nervous system by lengthening the exhales longer than the inhales. I use this regularly in class. Kelly McGonigal, from Stanford, taught us the 4/8 breath (meaning breathing in for a count of four and out for a count of 8). That’s a generalization – not everyone will be able to do that count comfortably – but it’s a great breath to use for relaxation and something that I use often on flights when we hit turbulence.

Kirsten

The breath is of course essential to yoga, and to life. We can instruct our students to take deeper inhales and allow the exhales to be longer, but without more pliable and and supple muscles of respiration, these breaths will still be a struggle. Using the Yoga Tupe-Up Therapy balls this morning, allowed me to access blind spots and sticky muscles and afterwards my breath truly was soft and full.

SherriS

I love it when in class and the yoga instructor reminds you to breath because guess what, I did forgot to breath!!! Yoga has made me regard my breath as something sacred. By having a regular practice, you also allow to receive the amazing benefits of deep breathing. I once had a friend who had a heart condition where if stressed her rate rate would shoot up at a dangerous pace. I asked her how she managed it and she said, “with my breath. It’s amazing what you can do with your breath.” I never really understood what she meant… Read more »

Murray Arnott

Good reminder, Amanda.

At this point, I am starting all classes with abdominal breathing. I am making the assumption that the act of getting from home, school or work to the studio (particularly those around the ‘rush hours’, leave students walking into the studio with an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Allowing the initial part of the class to down-regulate seems to bring the students into a much better balance from which to move into the remainder of the class.

Linda Abt

Ah breath – the beauty of breath. If you recorded one of my classes you would hear me prompt students (and myself) to breathe throughout the practice. Without breath the asanas are simply exercises. It is the breath that creates the framework for mindfulness and integration. Life is full of stress and we spend most of our waking hours rushing to get things done. This rushing extends to our breath – when stressed our breath tends to be shallow and rapid. The reminder to take deep abdominal breaths or really luxuriate in dirga breath is a gift that we can… Read more »

Kate

This is great article! I never really put two and two together. I just realized that my normal, everyday breaths are stressful, shallow breaths, in turn, stressing my out for no reason. My belly is always clamped, my chest is tight, my shoulders are tired and my mind is slightly frantic. When I don’t think about my breathing I don’t feel stressed, but after concentrating on how I’m breathing, I can feel that I’m stressed. Ugh, even while I’m sitting here typing and breathing “normally”, my breath keeps going back to being compressed. I’m really glad I read this, however,… Read more »

Emily

Great article. Focusing on deep abdominal breathing is a great way to regulate the breath and focus the mind during the practice of yoga. However, as you mentioned in your article, belly breathing can do so much for us in our daily lives as well. Checking in and observing the breath often is a great way of keeping an eye on both our mental and physical health. Poor regulation of breath can affect our anatomical health negatively in parts of the body such as the diaphragm, which can in turn cause problematic chain reactions all throughout our bodies.

Rita

Hello Amanda,

Thanks for reminding us all that we can use our breath every moment of every day to allow harmony of our breath to be a personal assistant in times of stress.

Jennifer Kuan

I totally agree with this article, especially since I have personally experienced the connection between shallow breathing and daily stress. It, however, is difficult to constantly monitor and control breathing.

silvia marisol

Love your analogy of the consequences of our breathing to “weather”!
It is true, Claire, that often beginners seem to be frustrated with breath awareness exercises at the opening of a movement class. Which, is evidence of the blatant lack of awareness most people have and thus, are “not living” with. What a wonderful gift we give others when we help them begin to experience a higher quality of life through the breath.
Awesome! Silvia Marisol Harms

Did You Finish Breathing Yet? | Yoga Tune Up

[…] can easily feel how your entire internal ecosystem shifts gears dramatically depending on how you choose to breathe. Overall, when you influence that length, size, volume and style of your breath, it changes your […]

Jennifer Slot

Thank you Amanda, how true, breath is life and this wonderful life giving breath is assessable to everyone.

Claire Miller Murphy

Recently, I became aware that I was not taking as much time for the study of the breath at the beginning of my Pilates, Yoga or movement classes as I used to do. I assume I strayed away from it was because there are MANY themes to choose and things to cover in class and sometimes it is easy to skip or rush the opening breathing exercises. In addition, many students, especially at first, are not comfortable simply focusing on breath and breathing. However, experiencing the issues with breath in my own body, and seeing it in others, I have… Read more »

Lindsey V

This is so so so true! Being a yogi it is our job to identify the breath, get to know it, and control it. Actively breathing in through the nose and out through the nose slowly and steadily with our Ujjayii breath is the key to calming the mind and properly practicing our yoga asanas. Yoga teaches that every pose begins with the breath first (or you could say that every pose begins after the breath- Breath first, followed by Action/Movement) so it makes sense that we shoudl approach our daily life with this same idea and practice! For years… Read more »

kathy

I am very fascinated by the power of the breath. It’s something that’s with us every second of every day and something that we have so much control over, but because it’s so often unconscious, we take it for granted. But wow, if we work with it, how profound the experience can be. I recently participated in a holotropic breathing workshop in which the basic premise is that we all have a deeper knowledge/wisdom that lies beneath our left-brain, thinking mind, and that we all have access to if we can just get out of our own way. What I… Read more »

Liz Arch

I have been going through a lot of major life transitions lately and deep abdominal breathing has been my saving grace. In stressful situations, I remind myself to breathe deeply and it instantly brings me out of my fight or flight response. It’s interesting to be able to observe and physically feel my heart rate slowing and the relaxation response taking over as the breath guides me into my parasympathetic nervous system. On my inhalation, I focus on drawing something positive into my life – breathing in love, acceptance, gratitude, etc. On my exhalation, I release any negative thoughts or… Read more »

Dawn McCrory

Taking it back to the breath… Simple yet challenging. Quiet yet powerful. Breathing is something we all must do to stay alive but it’s the first thing that flies out the window when we are stressed, whether it be physical or emotional stress. Many times, we have to make a conscious effort to perform an involuntary action. Amazing!

Terry Littlefield

Probably more than anything on this planet, I’m in love with breath work. Choosing conscious breath has been a true life changer for me. I love how fast you can change your mood, your day, or your stress level by breathing. It’s such a gift and most do not take advantage of it. It’s free. It’s easy. We already know how to do it. I wish all families would spend ten minutes every night or every morning breathing consciously together. There would be a shift. I think it’s taught by lots of people but my wish is that more people… Read more »

Luke Sniewski

Sometimes focusing on the simplest of life’s functions, breathing, is the answer to health woes. It’s at least a part of it. Great information here and solid delivery.

Lizbeth

Thank you so much for this article. Everyone should read this because everyone has moments of stress. There have been times where I have been in sheer panic and have been able to calm my body and mind by moving from clavicular breathing to abdominal breathing, just by shifting conscious awareness. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Darren

It’s perhaps the most important topic on this site, breathing… yet we spend so little time (in ordinary life) focussing on the breath.
We should all learn to breath better… deeply, and from the belly.

Maggie G.

Belly breath its an instant slower of anxiaty. I´ve had always been an anxious and nervous person, and the moment i tried belly breath with my closed eyes, i started realizing how my eyes relaxed at first and then my thoughts started to fade out. It improved my insomnia and all the problem that condition lead to. When I practice yoga, my breathing is as important as my foundation, you can really hold on to it!

Heather C

I love this analogy of weather and with the great humorous spin you add ! The breath is one of my favorite topics and parts of the body. Imagine a life of awareness to our breath and creating a sense of calm through stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system, thus decreasing the work on our adrenals to take a break on releasing unnecessary cortisol that is ever so present in our fast past life. I will use this weather analogy as it sticks with me and will be a powerful way to help people get back in touch with conscious breathing.… Read more »

Jill Miller

Your sense of humor has me doing all kins of spontaneous respiratory movements. KEEP WRITING SO I CAN KEEP LAUGHING! Brilliant!

Miei

Breathing is the most important when practicing yoga. And it also connected to our inside weather! I breathe without focusing on doing it, but unconsciously it stops for a while or sometimes counts faster depending on the state of my mind. Need to keep in my mind to keep it calm and smoothe!

Orlena Lackenbauer

I have given abdominal conscious breathing instruction to two people with two very different effects….. Imy friend Tony, with may physical and emotional issues used this technique when he was at the doctor’s office. They took his blood pressure and it was high. He applied the belly breathe and afterr the second check, his blog pressure had gone down dramatically. However – I was visiting my 90 year old mother and following her with her physical therapy appointment. She was continually getting out of breathe and they said her pulse was high. The physical therapists recommended some slow deep breathing.… Read more »

Karl

My experience with the breath, as an Ashtangi, is very intimate. That feeling of almost intoxicating serenity that comes after a practice usually eludes me when my mind wanders and I neglect the breath during my practice. Pretty amazing how movement linked with breath can synergistically result in such a profound sense of well-being. The irony of it is that what appears to be an intense way of breathing is actually what truely relaxes me afterwards and for the rest of the day I’m just breathing “normally,” which for me means relatively shallow. However, the state of relaxation is still… Read more »

Lana

Yoga belly breath is an invaluable gift that we all have. We just need to be reminded to use it! I wholeheartedly agree that shallow breath creates anxiety and panic. In fact, years ago, after taking an injury – related break from my consistent practice, and with some added stress, I developed anxiety attacks. I knew that the only way to get out of this situation was to start practicing yoga WITH breathing. And so I did. I have never had an anxiety attack again. In the years to follow, I used my yoga belly breathing in various stress inducing… Read more »

Celine

I would like to make my breathing better, it tends to be shallow. I have noticed that it is challenging for me to make my exhale as long as my inhale. I will be looking for yoga tune-up poses that will improve my breathing.

Angela

Deep belly breathing calms me in an instant! it is my ‘go-to’ tool and mechanism for healing. I love thinking that I can control “The weather inside!” We often think about the weather daily as out of our control. But remembering to breath and that we can exhibit some amount of control over our breath is a great way to initiate positive healing and change in our lives.

Deanne

I was on an incredibly turbulent flight a few years ago and was scared. I decided to test the deep breathing for relaxation theory, and, although it took some time, I found myself able to totally relax. It was almost eerie how peaceful I was able to stay, despite all the white-knuckeling I was observing around me.

Maria Vogel

Thanks for the reminder that the diaphram is also a muscle that need to be worked like the rest of our body. Belly breathing is such a powerful tool to calm our nervous system and begin to focus inward.

Almaz Hayet

I am more aware than ever of breathing, stopping to breath. I am constantly now reminding myself to breath throughout the day thanks to my Yoga journey.

Anonymous E ;)

Thanks, I agree with all of the above!
Breath is a great tool to make your life (and yoga!) a lil easier.
On a free way, when someone cuts you off, try to take a big, deep breath in, and slow, complete exaltation (instead of swearing out loud) Works, like a charm! 

Destiny

This article was very informative! I find that when I am in finals and/or stressed about an assignment, I have very shallow breathing. I literally almost hold my breath. Through yoga I have been able to connect to the power of my breathe to help me hold and get deeper into poses. By stating the actual physiological responses that the body goes through when we breathe in a shallow way, this has reminded me to be aware of that and to remind my students on the importance of breath.

Gloria Tan

During my 1st pregnancy I had anxiety and I remember my heart always racing almost constantly and I remember how hard it was to slow it down. I learned through meditation to calm it down. It’s amazing what the breath can do! I even teach belly balloon breathing in my kid yoga classes and to my 5 and 3 year olds. 🙂

@ Donna, That’s awesome that you use those trying moments to practice your yoga breath 🙂

Barb Voss

My ninety year old mother was in the hospital recently experiencing some chest pain, and as could be expected, her anxiety level was sky high. Watching the respiration rate on her hospital monitor and seeing her breathe in such a rapid, shallow manner, I suggested that we do some slow abdominal breathing together. With a focused, rhythmic breathing pattern, we watched the monitor drop back to normal levels almost immediately. Every time she got anxious we repeated the process, and each and every time the monitor reflected our efforts. Breathe better, feel better, heal better, live better- I couldn’t agree… Read more »

Christy

Deep abdominal breathing has helped me to stay connected with myself and my clients in massage. Throughout my sessions I stay conscious of my breath and this brings a great awareness for me as well as my client. I feel that it triggers their parasympathetic nervous system to sync in with the body work they are receiving and the healing intention I have for them. Just like Amanda said “When the parasympathetic nervous system dominates the body heals and repairs itself and the mental/emotional weather pattern is calm and still. Breathe better; feel better; heal better; live better.” This is… Read more »

Christy

I have found that conscious deep breathing into the abdomen has saved me from overreacting on numerous occasions. For instance, like Alicia said above, when there is that moment of anxiety and excitement about teaching a class I consciously breathe while driving to the studio and find that I am more grounded and composed. Other instances like when I interact with a difficult customer, breathing and staying composed to handle the situation in a professional way serves the situation and us both well to come out with a favorable result for the both of us. Lastly, the mention of healing… Read more »

Alicia Wang

As a yoga teacher, the breath is the most valuable tool. I mean this not only for my self but also for my students. I think most teachers have all experience the jitters of teaching a new class or teaching in a new place or even teaching a new student for the first time. If I just take the moment to pay attention to my breath and then really dive deep into my body with a full inhale and exhale, I always seem to get past that moment when I feel like fear and uncomfortableness takes me out of myself.… Read more »

Donna

I’ve found that I can control my level of stress when I’m in a difficult meeting with a supervisor by focusing on my breath. The great thing is that while they may be focusing on ‘pushing my buttons’, I’m breathing my way through the experience – and they don’t have a clue why I’m not getting rattled.

Patricia Antoni

Thank you for your article. Calm breath calm mind. I try to remind myself every practice. The breath is one of the hardest things to focus on in my practice I do a lot of Bikram and catch myself holding my breath. Also if I work hard in my practice I can go the other way and find myself almost panting. Yoga reminds us to come back to the breath. If everyone did yoga and was mindful of the breath first maybe we would know world peace. 🙂

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