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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thank you for this clear ,concise yet simple explanation of how being aware of our breath can affect us in so many ways. When ever I catch myself dealing with a situation of high stress I remind myself to just breathe. So simple yes so important.

Murielle Corwin

I love the analogy of breathing and internal weather; it truly illustrates how emotions can alter our breathing. I understand the connection of the nervous system and breathing: abdominal breathing brings us back to the basics. The parasympathetic nervous system the “rest and digest” the counterpart to the sympathetic nervous system “the flight of fight” to start to understand the difference is of major importance in terms of defining our own stressors. I really like how you approach breath as an essential element of our practice, thank you


I agree with Alyss, this article is a wonderful way to explain the importance of breathing and a way to introduce breathing techniques to someone. Its amazing how many people do no know how to breath well and worse, they don’t even know it. I would love to use your article as introduction to some YTU poses that have an impact to upper back and shoulders (pecs,SPS) abs, psoas and hip flexors because helping releasing these muscles will have a dinamic impact to the diaphragm so breathing will be easier.


Amanda, this is a great back to basics blog! You have articulately conveyed the value of breath in a way any lay person could understand but also do a thorough job of explaining how the dimension of your breath can alter your physical and mental state. This article would be a great reference to introduce the concept of abdominal breath to someone.

Emma McAtasney

I love belly breathing! I usually practise belly breathing in bed to soothe my system to have a very restful night of sleep while focusing on relieving tension throughout my body from top to toe. I have occasional insomnia and this usually curbs the sleep math.


Love your description use the breath to check your “internal weather”. By answering the questions, I felt more empowered and focused after doing this exercise. Thank you!

Jen F.

Thank you for this post and the reminder of the importance of breathing. I’m currently in training and find this is something I still need to work and focus on to experience all the benefits of.

Michelle Clemens

I love how you relate the breath to an internal weather system! This is exactly the way the breath feels inside the body. I dont know if we really put enough emphasis on the breath outside of our yoga practice. If we can stay connected throughout the most stressful times in our life, it resonates a sense of calmness and assertion. Thank you for this wonderful post.


Thanks Amanda! I learned how to deep belly breath in a yoga class 20 years ago. It is something I’ve always returned to in times of stress. When I stop to take 10 breathes and calm down, it’s always the deep belly breath that I’ve turned to.

Chantal Gray

Thanks Amanda. I knew that belly breathing stimulated the relaxation response but I didn’t appreciate that the autonomic nervous system was hooked into the diaphragm – and that there was a two way communication path between the two. I was missing the “How?” part of the equation. This makes it a lot easier to understand and will definitely make it easier to explain in class.

Christine Heroux

I love the way you guide Savasana of inflating and softening the belly. It was revealed to me today that I spend most of my awakened days in fight or flight mode. I hope to be able to integrate some of the direction you offer into my daily habits 🙂

Amanda Tripp

Hi Garrett. Great question! I hope I can answer to your satisfaction here. The autonomic nervous system is the branch of the nervous system that regulates your sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) response and your parasympathetic (relaxation) response. You cannot DIRECTLY control your autonomic nervous system, but autonomic nervous are hooked into your diaphragm. That is how short, clipped, shallow breaths happen automatically when you shift into fight or flight mode. When you’re under stress, the autonomics automatically prepare your body to fight or flight by altering your breathing pattern. Here’s what’s SO COOL: There is a two-way communication pathway going on here.… Read more »


Thanks Amanda! I’m curious as to what the mechanism ,or connection, is between belly breathing and the parasympathetic nervous system? Why does breathing slowly into the belly down regulate? Theories on this??

Alex Booth

Thank you for this article on breathing Amanda. I found it very interesting you brought up the point about how causing your breathing to being shallow, rapid and clipped can engage your flight or flight response. When I was beginning my journey as strength athlete I was taught to dothis from the more experienced lifters when approaching a big lift in order to cause an adrenaline surge and help you power through the lift! It’s amazing what an impact breathing can have on performance whether it’s a yoga pose or a heavy squat!

Katherine Deicke

Thank you for the reminder of the importance of breathing! I do find that in most classes when the teachers cues “are we breathing?” Or “how is your breath?” I quickly take in a deep inhale as if I totally forgot because I was so focused on the asana! I am hoping to get to a point where my breathing comes first and the difficult of the asana follows smoothly.


With the holiday season approaching we (sometimes) induce stress and anxiety . Amanda Tripp in her Yoga Tune Up Blog describes a very simple way to reduce these sensation. Turn your seasonal breathing into a life time of Ease !
Thanks Amanda. I am glad I found this blog at the beginning of my teacher training to reduce my stress and anxiety for this week and the rest of my life ! Gratefully Nancy Drope. x

Bev Hotchkiss

I am in the midst of reading a book on breath by Larry Rosenberg and I just picked up Iyengar’s book “Light on Pranayama”. I find as a teacher that when I am leading my students through a Svasana I am guided to speak by there breath. If it reverts to shallow chest breathing or rapid belly breathes I am compelled to guide them back either through counting or metaphors or simply by stating “inhalations and exhalations” in a soothing slow tone. Also, recently while teaching a full Restorative class I find that I am moving my hands in a… Read more »


During the 3 day YTU training I was once again reminded of just how important the breath is, in my yoga practice as well as in my daily life. A yoga teacher of mine always used to say ‘it’s the breath that brings the pose to life’ and I cannot agree with her more. Thank you Amanda for this most informative post. I will definitely share this with friends and family.


Learning more and more about our breath has been one of my favorite parts of yoga teacher training. Since YTU class, it’s been even more important to focus on your breath. For example, if I’m not breathing well while using the YTU balls, I’m not getting as much as I could be. When I have control over my breath, I have the control to turn a painful situation into an enjoyable massage 🙂

Alicia Martinez

Thank you for this post! It is so interesting! How breathing affects our nervous system and is linked to our emotions and state. Learning how to do abdominal breathing has helped me to cope with very stressful situations, and has given me control over my body and mind. Be able to place my hands in my belly and feel my breathing has given me a powerful tool. I had three MRI this year, and I was surprised how practising my abdominal breathing helped me to be able to relax and not be setressed with all the noise!


I love how you gave the physiological aspects of breathing and their connection to activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Succinct and to the point, you’ve given the reader simple tools to observe their breathing and simple tools to help deal with stress.


Thanks, Amanda. This is a very important lesson! Yoga has helped me deepen my breath and pay much closer to attention to it. As a high-stress individual this has helped me beyond belief! More people could benefit from slowing down and focusing on their own breath when in a stressful situation. It can help so much.

Jessica Sleiman

I love how you talk about our “internal weather system” that we sometimes do not believe we have control over. The more we allow our bodies to remain under stress, the more we are letting it dominate our emotions and actions. We don’t want our bodies to get into fight and flight mode, especially since we have the tools in our hands to instead use stress as a positive thing. Stress is there to get us moving, but to do so calmly. Using the proper breathing methods, we give ourselves the time to meditate and appreciate our bodies and everything… Read more »


Is breathing into the belly more stress relieving that breathing into the chest? I understand that long, slow breath is calming, but how does the location of the breath play into the calming effect?

Laurie Streff Kostman

Amen! So much of what is troubling us inside can be address by breath, by literally taking the time to bring the breath inside of us. When the outside distractions and stressors turn our sympathetic nervous system buttons on, it’s within our control to switch those buttons off with deep belly breathing, igniting our parasymapthetic nervous system buttons instead. Thank you for this simple but important message that with abdominal breathing, a sense of calm and restoration can be ours. Self care is just a breath away.

joan katz

Thank you for a great article. It is amazing how deep breathing/abdominal breathing can reduce stress anywhere and at any time. These techniques can also easily be taught to older children and teens!

Diane Walters

Thank you for this concise yet extremely important article! It always amazes me how such a simple technique, deep abdominal breathing, has the power to slow down the stress response and relax the body. I have been using the technique for several years and it has never failed me. Someone explained to me that the body is not capable of being both relaxed and stresses at the same time…..since the abdominal breathing relaxes the body…it quickly relieves the stress. I am a teacher and I share this with some of my students who are experiencing stress and/or anger issues. It… Read more »


It’s amazing how paying attention to the simplest of things, like breathing, is such a fleeting art. Our minds wonder left and right from the demands of our daily schedules, by technology which was supposed to make our lives easier, which has now made life more expansive, invasive and (when I forget to turn off my cell during the night) quite frustrating. Like you say Amanda, breathing is THE most important thing we do. Yet, we sometimes forget we’re even doing it. I was at the bank this afternoon, and while waiting in line, down-regulating my breathing. My bank account… Read more »

Meredith Brockriede

I love the idea of linking the breath to the weather. So many of us live in a foggy, gray state of being but unlike the actual weather, we have the power to change that.

I find that belly breath is one of the simplest and easiest parts of a yoga practice that students can take off the mat with them. We all deal with stress on a daily basis, but we can stay a little sunnier with abdominal breathing.

Yasmen Mehta

Sitting at a desk all day, is probably the biggest breath defeater. As I find my self slouching sometimes, everything collapses and I find I am breathing in a very shallow way. Don’t brain cells slowly die, because they don’t get enough oxygen. At least that’s what my docter told my husband for his sleep apnea.

Jiin Liang

Yes, I totally agree with you. Abdominal breath also help you find connection with your mind and observe what is occupying and what is drifting through your mind scape. The breath pattern also helps us to become more aware of our emotions. Confidence, calm, sadness and anger express very differently as to the location and frequency of our breath. It is most satisfying for me to sit and meditate quietly with my belly breath! Belly breath is my pal!

Amanda Tripp

Hi Yiselle. How interesting! And timely! Just last night, I had a couple of ESL students turn up in my Restorative Class. After class, they asked me to explain some of the anatomical terms to them so they could understand the breath work we were doing. After 15 minutes and much pointing, diagram drawing and Sanskrit to English to Japanese translation, we came to a clear understanding about what a kumbhaka is, what a sternum and clavicle are and how to perform Viloma. Finding ways to explain the concepts that are accessible and interesting is an ongoing challenge!!

Yiselle Blum

Hi Amanda! I love how concise this article is. As I find myself trying to explain the things that I have been learning to family and friends, I see many of their eyes glaze over as soon as I use an unfamiliar word or phrase. The syntax and accessibility of your language in the article is so descriptive yet simultaneously informative – something I have a lot to learn about 🙂 I also loved the weather analogy – what a wonderful way of objectively and non-accusatively assessing ones inner state. Thank you for this – I will definitely be rereading… Read more »

Elissar Hanna

@Lynne & Amanda. Thanks for posting. I am so happy to hear that Lynne, you brought deep abdominal breathing into an anger management class! Breath is the first step, it’s the bridge between our experience now and our experience in the next moment. And we can choose to till our garden so the next moment is more capable of receiving happy feelings! The more I read about the diaphragm, the more amazed I am. I used belly breathing when I was nervous this afternoon, preparing for an important conversation. I know that it helped me enter into a parasympathetic state… Read more »

Amanda Tripp

@ Stephanie.
Hi Stephanie. No, I don’t breathe abdominally all the time. My natural breath seems to sit around my low ribs.
I have another article on the YTU blog about the Intercostals (the little muscles between your ribs that create rib cage movement when breathing) that you might enjoy reading. At the end of the article, there is a list of techniques that you can use to make them stronger and more supple. Happy reading!

Stephanie Fish

Thank you for your post and reminder for how to relax in the moment by abdominal breathing. I have a lot of clients who come in having learned abdominal breathing – and that is pretty much all they do. Their ribs don’t move at all and their thoracic spine is thus very rigid and their abdomen is displaced too far forward. I wonder if you abdominal breathe in general, or just as a means of down-regulating? Thank you.

Alison Lloyd-Nijjar

Actively practicing abdominal breathing the past 5 days when i can remember during my daily activities, but especially entering savasana and settling for sleep at night, has been incredibly soothing. It usually takes me a while to settle down for savasana and sleep but abdominal breathing has taken me directly into deep rest.

Diane M

Amanda, while I was familiar with these breathwork/ relaxation concepts -I love the way you paint the picture! As I read this, it reminds me of a general Stress Reduction/Relaxation class I used to teach for a PE Department at a college. I used to collect some pre-semester info re: medical conditions, medications, experience with stress and how it manifested for my students. It always amazed me to learn how many of my 17-24 year old students were taking prozac, zoloft, etc. Additionaly, some of the things they wrote about their stress and (lack of ) coping methods made me… Read more »

Michael Siddall

Great article and a reminder that breath leads the way!

Celeste L.

This is a wonderful reminder that breath is the key to the control valves of the body and mind. I love the concept that breath can alter or shift your internal weather forcast~what vivid imagery!

I have an ever-evolving experience with my own breath patterns both on and off the mat, and am so incredibly humbled by how powerful and rich, small amount of dedicated attention breathing, can make such a difference in one’s day!

Thank you:)

Judy Swens

The breath is so beneficial for many reasons! I loved doing this along with Thoracic breathing in Tubular Core taught by Jill in the Yoga Tune Up level one class. I found from breathing more fully I was able to relax and I was simply more aware!

Lori Wieder

It’s empowering for people to learn that they truly can change their relationship with their nervous system through the practice of abdominal breathing. I’ve found that just knowing they have some tools they can use — that they are not at the mercy of these feelings of stress — gives them a greater sense of well being.

Allison Shapiro

The breath is the wind of the spirit. When the spirit is low the breath seems barely there, when the spirit is agitated the breath is out of control, when the spirit is connected, the breath is long, smooth and deep. Can’t live without it!

Cynthia Bunt-Gardner

Today we practiced 5 restorative hip exercises and Jill changed the breath for each exercise. Following the breath and changing it with each exercise had an incredibly relaxing effect on me. I will use this technique in the future to attain this relaxed state for my clients.

Amanda Tripp

@ Marilyn.
Great question, Marilyn. Before YTU, I mainly practiced and taught a style of yoga that treated pranayama and asana as distinct practices. One of the ways YTU training changed my approach to pranayama was that I felt freed to practice asana and pranayama at the same time! I also felt freed to play and invent new ways to coordinate breath with movement – which has literally allowed me to breathe new life into my asana practice. Enjoy the training!

Lynne S

I teach anger management classes and always teach abdominal breathing in the first class. Generally, the students think I’m a little crazy when I assign home work of taking 5-7 abdominal breaths an hour. When they come back the next week they report being happily surprised that, Surprise! Surprise! It worked and they were much calmer.

Renee holden

Amanda, thanks for the article, I regularly “listen to my clients” breathe and talk before we begin our session, to check their state of mind, and body.
When we are stressed, and breathing quickly, we also produce a stress hormone called cortisol. In a state of flight or flight , and you are stressed, your body finds it very hard to work correctly and holds on to calories. In saying that…. Breathe deeply to help your body burn calories and loose weight!

Marilyn gibson

How has your breathing practice been enhanced or changed since taking and teaching Yoga Tune Up? I am currently in training and am finding myself challenged to consistsently find my breath

Kate Krumsiek

I love that this article centers on a person’s ability to change their internal weather with focus on the breath – what a gift to give students to feel empowered in the face of difficult times and strong emotions. It is a magical tool to counteract the stressors within our busy lives. In my current training, I’ve learned the expression “bare attention” on the breath and I think it has enormous use for practitioners – by recognizing where the breath is without changing it, we gather information about our internal state and can then use the tools described here to… Read more »

Michelle Dalbec

Amanda – Thanks for the succinct yet extremely important article on the breath. I practice a yoga that is very breath centered and I cannot imagine how people practice without an emphasis on the breath. After well over 16 year of practice and over a decade of teaching I think of the breath as immediately accessible “aid” that is with me 24/7. I feel like in every situation that I encounter in life the breath can somehow enhance my experience bringing clarity, connection, or calm. The breath has such an immediate and profound affect on the quality of all aspects… Read more »