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Breathing exercises

Neuro Café 25th May 2022 by Linda S


See the slides in LEGS Members' Area for details.

A man is standing with eyes closed, face turned up to the sky
Breathing exercises can relieve anxiety

Are you breathing correctly? Here are some tips on how to improve breathing techniques.

Anxiety and breathing


There can be physical or emotional triggers from anxiety which result in faster and shallower breathing. You may find it difficult to spot your own triggers, or find them easier to spot in someone else! Correct breathing can lessen the fight or flight response, and help calm the parasympathetic nervous system.

Using breathing techniques can restore balance to your levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.


A woman is sitting on a beach in front of a sunset
Take time to check in with your breathing

Check your breathing


Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Your abdomen hand should be moving more. We are aiming for deep diaphragm or abdominal/belly breathing which is also recommended for pain and stress relief.

Helpful Breathing Techniques

  • Box breathing - On a count of 4, breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, pause for 4. Repeat.

  • 5 finger breathing - Breathe in and out as you trace around each finger (also a sensory exercise!). This calming breathing technique includes stretching your hand to focus your mind.

  • Breath focus - Exhale negative thoughts away as you sigh out. Think or say a word as such as ‘calm’ or ‘safe’ as you exhale.

  • 4 - 7 - 8 technique - Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, then exhale for 8 seconds. Place your tongue against roof of mouth as you breathe. Some people find this a helpful way to drift off to sleep.

  • Walking and breathing - Walk as you breathe to the count of three; in for 3, out for 3, relax for 3.


  • Longer exhalation than inhalation - Try a 1:2 ratio.


A man relaxes in an outdoor pool with his hands crossed behind their head
There are many breathing exercises to try

The benefits of slower deeper breathing are numerous, and include pain relief. To practise and master breathing out tension, try Headspace, Calm, or meditation videos or podcasts.


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