Health – The How’s and Why’s of Daily Deep Breathing


Having a panic attack is no fun. Feeling anxious and nervous certainly isn’t very much fun either. But millions of people suffer these symptoms each and every day and don’t know how to control it naturally (without meds), and/or they don’t take the time to practice what they might know will help: Deep Breathing.

You see, deep breathing techniques help to stimulate our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the nervous system responsible for activities that occur while our bodies are at rest. (The opposite of the PNS is our sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities while we’re in our fight or flight mode. It’s sort of our “excited” state of existence.)

By recognizing, nurturing, and controlling our PNS, we can remain “calm, cool, and collected” during what we might perceive are times of stress and anxiety, thus allowing us to think intuitively and orderly and be in the moment and act confidently and responsibly.

So how do we do this PNS managing? Simply by focused breathing with a reason, A.K.A “Deep Breathing”.

I just read an article on Huffington Post “Stress Release Tactics Navy Seals Swear By”. The system they use is called ” 4 x 4 x 4 breathing”. Inhale deeply for four counts, then exhale for four counts and repeat the cycle for four minutes several times a day. You’re guaranteed to feel calmer on the battleground of life.

Pranayama breathing, which is often performed in yoga and meditation, is an ancient practice of breath control. There are six types of Pranayama breathing. does a nice job of instructing us through one of the most popular Pranayama breathing techniques.  Ujjai breath calms the mind and is said to be highly beneficial to those suffering from insomnia and mental tension.

Start by siting in a comfortable cross-legged position.

  1. Inhale deeply through your mouth. Feel the air of your inhalations passing down through your windpipe.
  2. Now slightly contract the back of the throat, as you do when you whisper, and exhale. Imagine your breath is fogging up a window.
  3. Keep this contraction of the throat as you inhale and exhale, then gently close your mouth and continue breathing through your nose.
  4. Concentrate on the sound of the breath, which will soothe your mind. It should be audible to you, but not so loud that someone standing several feet away can hear it.
  5. Let your inhalations fill your belly, ribs, and chest; completely release the air on your exhalations.
  6. Begin to synchronize your breath with your movements, inhaling with upward moves and exhaling with downward moves.

Resistance breathing is another method, described by Therese Borchard’s “Three Deep Breathing Exercises to Reduce Anxiety” article in

Resistance breathing is exactly what its name suggests: breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air. Per the authors:

Resistance can be created by pursing the lips, placing the tip of the tongue against the inside of the upper teeth, hissing through the clenched teeth, tightening the throat muscles, partly closing the glottis, narrowing the space between the vocal cords, or using an external object such as breathing through a straw.

Therese thinks it’s interesting when they explain that singing and chanting – all musical sounds created by contracting vocal cords — are forms of resistance breathing, and that is why they provide that relaxed sensation you can get meditating (if you can meditate).

So if your starting out, or haven’t done any controlled breathing exercises in a while, just simply make some time each day to do it. Don’t force or rush it. Let it come and develop naturally. After 5,10, or maybe 20 minutes you’ll start to feel a refreshing feeling from deep inside your gut, and you’ll realize just how short and narrow your breaths were prior to starting the breathing exercise.

Here’s a cool breathing fact: Of all the automatic functions of the body — cardiovascular, digestive, hormonal, glandular, immune — only the breath can be easily controlled voluntarily, explain Richard P. Brown, M.D. and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D. in their book, “The Healing Power of the Breath.


Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach
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