Breathing is a powerful tool for influencing the nervous system.  Even though we usually do not pay attention to our breath, and it unfolds automatically, we can consciously choose to breathe a certain way which will either calm or excite the nervous system.

Below are 2 simple breathing exercises, that can be easily learned and should be practiced most of our lives.  The first one, diaphragmatic breathing, is the same breath we use when we run, walk fast or sing, or play a musical instrument.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Sit calmly and comfortably or lie down flat.  Breathe through your nose.  Exhale to mark the start of this practice.  Then begin to inhale from the diaphragm.  You can tell you are breathing from this primary breathing muscle by the slow rising of your abdomen.  Let your belly expand like a balloon.  Inhale only to a comfortable point.  Do not try to fill your lungs to their maximum.  Once you have inhaled enough, begin exhaling.  Slowly, almost passively, let all the air leave your lungs. The abdomen sinks back down, the chest falls.  When almost all the air has left your lungs, begin again.

Try this for about 10 Minutes.  (If your abdomen does not expand on the inhale, it most likely means you are breathing through your chest.  You can try to relearn diaphragmatic breathing by lying on your bed, placing a paperback book on your belly and then trying to lift up the book when you inhale, and have it sink back down when you exhale)

Anti Anxiety Breathing

Use the same diaphragmatic breath described above.  But now, begin counting as you inhale, for example: 1 – 2 – 3 and as you exhale: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5.  How far you count up and down is of no importance, the crucial thing is to lengthen the exhale, which increases parasympathetic tone (relaxation nervous system) in the body