Calm your nervous system with deep breathing exercises

deep breathing

Here are some deep breathing exercises to help calm your mind and soothe your soul…taking a few minutes several times throughout your day will help to give your stress response a break from an otherwise hectic day…

Exercise 1: Alternate Nostril Breath


  • calming effect on the nervous system
  • soothes headaches
  • helps overcome insomnia
  • improves digestion and appetite
  • purifies the bloodstream and aerates the lungs
  • helps to free the mind of anxiety and depression
  • relaxes and refreshes the body


  1. Sit in a comfortably cross-legged position, back straight.
  2. Raise your RIGHT hand and place your ring finger against your LEFT nostril, closing it off.
  3. Inhale deeply and slowly through the RIGHT nostril on the count of four.
  4. Close off the RIGHT nostril with your thumb and retain the breath for a count of 1-4 seconds.
  5. Open the LEFT nostril and exhale to the count of 4-8 seconds. The longer you can make the exhalation, the better. Concentrate on completely emptying the lungs.
  6. Breathe in through the same LEFT nostril to the count of 4.
  7. Close off the nostril with the ring finger again and hold to the count of 1-4 seconds.
  8. Exhale through the RIGHT nostril to the count of 4-8 seconds. This makes up one round.
  9. Repeat these rounds of alternate nostril breathing five more times or up to ten minutes if you are concerned about insomnia.
  10. Practice a ratio of 4:4:8, if at all possible. Increase this to 8:4:8 eventually, then 8:8:8, after some months.


Do’s and Don’ts:

DO practice the Alternate Nostril Breath whenever you need calming – if you are nervous, upset or irritable.

DO NOT push yourself with the holding position or by increasing the ratio until you are comfortable doing so.

DO NOT make the breathing rhythmic, smooth and slow. You can work on making it inaudible eventually.

The importance of this particular breath can not be overemphasized. The body and mind are closely inter-related and one influences the other to a much greater extent than previously realized. As an all-round “soother” the Alternate Nostril breath is incomparable.

Exercise 2: Complete Breath


  • purifies the bloodstream and enriches it
  • strengthens lungs, thorax and abdomen
  • develops chest and diaphragm
  • increases resistance to colds
  • calms the nervous system
  • clears up phlegm
  • aids digestion
  • helps to lift depression


  1. Sit in a comfortably cross-legged position, or in a chair.
  2. Straighten your back, which will straighten your thorax for easier breathing.
  3. Inhale slowly through the nose, breathing deeply, consciously.
  4. Take five seconds to fill the lower part of the lungs, by expanding the ribs and pushing the abdomen out.
  5. Concentrate on filled the top of the lungs for the next five seconds. This will expand the chest and tighten the abdomen slightly.
  6. Hold the breath for 1-5 seconds.
  7. Exhale slowly until you have emptied the lungs.
  8. Repeat 4-5 times more.

Do’s and Don’ts:

DO establish a rhythmic rise and fall of your abdomen, to promote regular breathing.

DO attempt to breathe inaudibly after you have gotten the knack of deep breathing.

DO concentrate on your breathing alone, with your eyes closed, if you wish. It serves to do the technique better but it is also a preparation for meditation.

DO push your abdomen out as you breathe in and pull the abdomen in as you breathe out.

DO give an extra snort as you exhale to rid yourself of stale waste-matter in the bottom of the lungs.

DO NOT slouch or slump. For maximum efficiency, the thorax must be straight.

Exercise 3: Cleansing Breath


  • Clears lungs, sinuses and nasal passages
  • Aids digestion
  • Stimulates the liver, spleen and pancreas
  • Purifies the bloodstream and clears the head
  • Relieves colds
  • Tones the nervous system
  • Strengthens lungs, thorax and abdomen


  1. Sit in a comfortably cross-legged position, or in a chair with your back straight.
  2. Inhale deeply, pushing the abdomen out, and taking in as much air as possible in the space of 1 second.
  3. Whack your abdomen in forcefully to expel the air through the nostrils. The sensation should be one of having been punched in the stomach.
  4. Inhale again by pushing the abdomen out and letting the air rush back into the vacuum created by exhalation.
  5. The whole process, inhalation and exhalation, should take not much more than 1-1/2 seconds. Both should be forceful and will be quite audible.
  6. Repeat ten times, follow with a complete breath and repeat ten times more
  7. Exhale slowly until you have emptied the lungs.
  8. Repeat 4-5 times more.

Do’s and Don’ts:

DO push the abdomen out as far as you can as you inhale.

DO NOT exhale consciously, but let the action of the abdomen do it for you.

Tasleem Kassam