Take a deep breath…

Hectic day?

Need some help getting into relax-mode before bed?


Here are 2 easy – and powerful – suggestions to stimulate the relax response of the nervous system through deep breathing.

Deep breathing stimulates the relaxation response to combat the effects of stress and anxiety.  There are many deep breathing techniques – most of which require some practice to perfect.
Lying down on your back, sitting with your back straight or standing up with good posture are all acceptable positions.

By practicing breathing exercises on a regular basis, we can improve heart rate variability (associated with greater longevity and increased exercise capacity), blood pressure, digestion, sleep, and the stability of the nervous system.

Once you have mastered the basics, you can use these techniques anytime, anywhere to decrease your stress response.


Short and sweet – the benefits of deep breathing:
•    Helps to overcome insomnia
•    Enriches the bloodstream and aerates the lungs & develops the chest and diaphragm
•    Calms the nervous system  & helps to free the mind of anxiety and depression
•    Strengthens lungs, thorax and abdomen
•    Increases resistance to colds & clears up phlegm
•    Aids digestion


  1. Raise your RIGHT hand and place your ring finger against your LEFT nostril, closing it off.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly through the RIGHT nostril to the count of 4.
  3. Close off the RIGHT nostril with your thumb and hold the breath for a count of 1-4.
  4. Open the LEFT nostril and exhale to the count of 4-8.  The longer you can make the exhalation, the better.  Concentrate on completely emptying the lungs.
  5. Breathe in through that same LEFT nostril to the count of 4.
  6. Close off the nostril with the ring finger again and hold to the count of 1-4.
  7. Exhale through the RIGHT nostril to the count of 4-8.  This makes up one round.
  8. Repeat these rounds 5 more times, or for up 10 minutes for insomnia relief.
  9. Practice a ratio of 4:4:8 (if possible).  Increase this to 8:4:8, 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.
•    DON’T push yourself with the holding position or by increasing the ratio until you are comfortable doing so.


  1. Straighten your back, which will straighten your thorax for easier breathing.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nose, breathing deeply, consciously.
  3. Take five seconds to fill the lower part of the lungs, by expanding the ribs and pushing the abdomen out.
  4. Concentrate on filling the top of the lungs for 5 seconds. Expand the chest and tighten the abdomen slightly.
  5. Hold the breath for 1-5 seconds.
  6. Exhale slowly until you have emptied the lungs.
  7. 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 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.
•    DON’T slump. For maximum efficiency the thorax must be straight.


These techniques are courtesy of the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto – the teaching clinic of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

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