3 Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief

The best breathing techniques for stress management and relief.

5 Minute ReadFeature

09.09.20 (Updated 25.04.23)

Over the past five years, internet searches for “breathwork” to reduce stress have increased six-fold, and GOOP’s recent documentary series on Netflix featuring an episode on Wim Hof Method and the eponymous man behind the technique, has brought the idea of breathing for calm, and even increased immunity, right into our living rooms.

Many people will have already experienced the power of the breath for stress relief and aid relaxation on their yoga mats - whether you realised you were engaging in breathwork or not.

Altering your respiratory rhythm directly alters the state of your central nervous system and can support your wellbeing in many ways. If you want to achieve increased focus and productivity, improve your mood and even shift some unwanted weight, the below breathing hacks could be a great place to start. You might also want to consider taking a supplement to lower cortisol levels; LYMA’s evidence-based formula has been designed with your wellbeing in mind, and its eight unrivalled ingredients, including nootropics, offer tangible results and a confidence you can feel.

In this article we outline three basic breathing techniques that you can do yourself at home if you want to reduce stress and cortisol levels, calm anxiety, reduce inflammation and boost your immunity.

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1. Start Simply - Diaphragmatic Breathing

Why does diaphragmatic breathing helps with stress?
Otherwise known as ‘belly breathing’, diaphragmatic breathing forms the basis of most relaxation and meditation practices. This technique is particularly useful for eliminating stress, reducing cortisol levels in the blood and improving your core strength.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a really simple and relatively risk-free place to start if you’re new to breathwork.

How do I do it?

  1. Either sit up straight, or lie down on a flat and comfortable surface (your bed works too as long as you don’t nod off!).
  2. Scrunch your shoulders up to your ears and then release. Do this a few times before allowing your shoulders to totally relax.
  3. Place one hand on your abdomen.
  4. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and out through your mouth, counting to four with each inhale and exhale.
  5. Focus on the breath moving beyond your lungs and into your abdomen. You should feel your hands rising and falling with your breath. Your chest should not be moving much.
  6. Repeat for ten breaths initially, building up to more as your practice develops.
  7. Note how you feel afterwards.
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2. Alternate Nostril Breathing

What is Alternate nostril breathing and why does it soothes body and mind?
Alternate nostril breathing is popular with yogis for its ‘energy clearing’ properties. It is believed that this ancient breathing technique can help to reduce anxiety, relive the build-up of stress and help you to feel soothed and calm. Alternate nostril breathing is great for re-centering you and bringing your awareness back to the present moment, creating a feeling of mental clarity, and for promoting a general sense of wellbeing.

Alternate nostril breathing is a little more advanced than diaphragmatic breathing, so perhaps give the latter a go before attempting this technique.

How do I do it?

  1. Sit up straight with your legs crossed.
  2. Place your left hand on your left knee, and bring your right hand up toward your nose.
  3. Empty your lungs of air.
  4. Press your right thumb into your right nostril.
  5. Take a deep inhale through your left nostril only
  6. Use your right fingers to close your left nostril, release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril.
  7. Then inhale through your right nostril before closing with your thumb.
  8. Releasing your fingers, opening the left nostril, exhaling through your left nostril only.
  9. You can repeat this as many times as you need to, but always finish up by breathing out of your left nostril.
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3. The Wim Hof Method

What is it the Wim Hof method and how does it energise?
The one you’ve all been waiting for: the Wim Hof Method. Hof, also known as The Iceman, developed his advanced breathing exercises in response to a period of intense stress in his own life (his wife unfortunately committed suicide leaving him to bring up four young children alone).

This breathing system involves alternating between periods of hyperventilation and holding your breath for a sustained period. Practitioners report feeling intensely emotional, energised and even euphoric after engaging in the Wim Hof Method.

It is not uncommon to feel lightheaded or to develop a tingling sensation in your extremities when you engage in this kind of breathwork, so don’t be alarmed if you experience either of these things. Because you are undergoing controlled and self-induced hyperventilation there is a risk that you could faint, so make sure you are in a safe environment and do this in your bed or surrounded by cushions just in case.

This groundbreaking technique is pretty advanced but with a little practice you will be able to master it, and harness its incredible results such as reduced anxiety.

How do I do it?

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable and safe place.
  2. Begin to breathe steadily in and out, making your breaths deeper with each inhale.
  3. Use the belly breathing technique from earlier to establish a foundation for breathing in the Wim Hof method.
  4. You should pick up the pace of your breathing until it feels challenging but not uncomfortable.
  5. On your inhales, ‘suck’ the air in, and on your exhales, ‘push’ the breath out.
  6. Maintain a steady pace for thirty to forty breaths.
  7. Empty your lungs completely.
  8. Do not breathe back in for as long as you can muster. This will be tricky at first, but as you get used to this method you should be able to refrain from breathing in for between one and three minutes.
  9. When you finally take a breath in, hold it for ten to fifteen seconds.
  10. You can repeat this system three or four times in one sitting.
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If you want to find out more about ways to alleviate stress and anxiety, and to find more balance in your life, then take a look here and find out how LYMA could help you thrive.


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