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Harnessing the Power of Breath work for Anxiety Reduction: Your Personal Guide

rh counselling service ltd Jul 18, 2023
Woman Meditating using breath work

Harnessing the Power of Breath work for Anxiety Reduction: Your Personal Guide 


As a psychotherapist, I am constantly exploring innovative approaches to support my clients' mental well-being. One technique that has shown remarkable results in reducing anxiety and promoting overall calmness is breath work. Harnessing the power of our breath may seem simplistic, but it is an ancient practice with roots in various cultures and traditions. In this blog, I will share with you the transformative potential of breath work and guide you through different techniques that can help alleviate anxiety and restore balance to your mind and body.

Breath work is a powerful practice that involves conscious control and regulation of the breath. It is not just about the automatic intake and release of air; it is a deliberate and intentional way of breathing that can have profound effects on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. So, take a deep breath, and let's embark on this journey together. 

Origins of Breath work:

Breath work has roots in ancient traditions and practices such as yoga, meditation, and pranayama. Pranayama, a Sanskrit term meaning "control of life force," is a breath control practice utilised in yogic traditions. It is believed to have originated thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent.

In recent years, breath work has gained recognition and popularity in Western cultures as more people seek holistic approaches to stress management, self-discovery, and emotional healing. Various breath work techniques and modalities have emerged, each offering unique benefits and approaches to harnessing the power of the breath.


Now, let's explore some of the different breath work techniques that can help reduce anxiety:

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing:

One of the fundamental breath work techniques for anxiety reduction is diaphragmatic breathing. Also known as belly or deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing involves consciously engaging the diaphragm muscle, which separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Here's how to do it:

 To practice this technique:

- Find a comfortable seated position or lie down.

- Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.

- Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your belly, allowing the air to fill your lungs.

- Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your belly sink down.

- Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath.

  1. Box Breathing:

Box breathing, also called square breathing, is a technique that involves consciously controlling the length and rhythm of each breath. Follow these steps to practice box breathing:

- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit.

- Inhale slowly through your nose to a count of four.

- Hold your breath for a count of four.

- Exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of four.

- Hold your breath for a count of four.

- Repeat this cycle for several minutes, focusing on the even duration of each breath.

 Box breathing helps to regulate the body's stress response, promoting a sense of calm and reducing feelings of anxiety.


  1. 4-7-8 Breathing:

Popularised by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing technique combines deep breathing and breath retention to induce relaxation. Here's how you can practice it:

- Begin by exhaling completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four.

- Hold your breath for a count of seven.

- Exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, to a count of eight.

- Repeat this cycle for a few minutes, focusing on the rhythm and counting.

 This technique helps slow down the heart rate, calming the mind and promoting a sense of tranquility.


  1. Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Known as Nadi Shodhana in yogic traditions, alternate nostril breathing is a technique that balances the flow of breath and energy in the body. To practice this technique:

- Sit comfortably, with your spine erect.

- Rest your left hand on your lap, and bring your right hand to your face.

- Use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril to a count of        four.

- Close both nostrils with your right ring finger, holding your breath for a count of four.

- Release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril to a count of four.

- Inhale through your right nostril, close both nostrils, and hold your breath.

- Release your ring finger, exhaling through your left nostril.

- Repeat this cycle for a few minutes

This technique promotes relaxation by activating the body's natural relaxation response, calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety levels. Alternate nostril breathing promotes balance, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being by harmonising the two hemispheres of the brain.


Breath work is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation. Experiment with these techniques and find the one that resonates with you the most. Remember, consistency is key, so try incorporating breath work into your daily routine, especially during times of increased stress or anxiety. Embrace the transformative power of your breath and reap the benefits of a calmer, more centred mind. You got this!

Rebecca Hay

The Break Free Therapist