A Breathing Technique to Ease Stress


In my one to one and Friday morning yoga class we have been exploring coherent  (or resonant) breathing & I’ve been really delighted with the feedback  – students are using this technique outside of class & having really positive results – especially in relation to stress, anxiety and insomnia. First introduced to me by @yogawithnorman and @benwolff on a Yin yoga teacher training, it is a resource I return to again and again – and one I love to share.

Isn’t just breathing deeply enough?

In our fact paced, information heavy world, we often lean towards acceleration. Spending just a few minutes consciously breathing sends signals of balance to our brain, telling us that we are ok, and brings us out from the part of our brain that makes us feel overwhelmed, into a state of calm. With resonant breathing, you learn how to apply your brake at will, rather than being sidelined by anxiety, distractedness, or excess stress

from ‘The Breathing App’ developed by Deepak Chopra, Eddie Stern & Moby (app details below)

How it works

When we breathe ‘coherently’ we breathe at a rate of five to seven breaths per minute (instead of a more usual 15-18). When we do this our heart rate, blood pressure, and brainwave function come into a coherent frequency,which allows us to enter into a state of mental clarity and calm. Research on coherent breathing is in it’s infancy but showing lots of encouraging results. It can help with anxiety, stress, immune system response, concentration and insomnia to mention just a few.

Personal Experience

From my personal experience, if I wake up during the night feeling anxious, (thank you menopause!) and unable to return to sleep, I begin to consciously slow down my breath, equaling the inhale and exhale. It works! After 5 minutes or so, my anxious feelings have subsided allowing me to fall back to sleep. Sounds a bit like magic, no? Sometimes the most simple really can be the most effective. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but if you’d like to explore further, below are some basic instructions and  resources to explore.

How to practice

Start by finding a nice comfortable position. You can be seated or lying down. I find lying on my back, eyes gently closed, with a bolster or cushion under my knees is perfect.

Place your hands on your belly and begin to slowly breathe in and out through the nose, gently and smoothly, counting the length of the breath. 

Start with a count of 4 for the inhale and 4 for the exhale, gradually increasing to 5 and then 6 if it feels right to do so. Do not force the breath, allow it to gently flow.

Continue for 5 to 10 minutes. Then let your breathing return to normal.

Spend a moment just lying there with your eyes closed and notice how you feel.

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The Breathing App – Eddie Stern, Deepak Chopra and Moby (App)

Breathe+ Simple Breath Trainer (App)

2 Bells – Coherence, The New Science of Breath (Spotify)

Interview with experts in the science of breathwork, Drs Patricia Gerbarg & Richard Brown. At 52:04 mins there is a detailed guide to coherent breathing.

THE NEW SCIENCE OF BREATH (2005) by Stephen Elliott with Dee Edmonson

THE HEALING POWER OF THE BREATH: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions  by Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg (Shambhala, 2012).

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