Yoga and Intentional Breathing

My neighborhood yoga center reopened last weekend. I was happy to attend an in-studio class again. Last January, I wrote about Why Yoga Poses Can Be So Beneficial. From maintaining muscle tone and flexibility, to improving balance and breathing skills, to strengthening how organs can function through various poses, all these are good reasons for practicing a few yoga asanas every day if you can. Yoga is great at helping reduce daily stress as well.

This past weekend, we practiced box breathing again. I really enjoy this calming breath exercise that helps regulate the autonomic nervous system. There’s no simpler way to help you reach a relaxed state than a quick intentional breathing exercise. So here’s the technique for box breathing (previously mentioned), along with a few other breathing exercises, to help you unwind!                                                                                                     

Box Breathing

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and count for 4 seconds before breathing in again. You can increase the number of seconds as you become more skilled but always practice in moderation. And just a few minutes (up to 5 minutes) at a time is plenty.  

Belly Breathing

This technique is explained by Dr. Frank Lipman in the July/August 2018 Experience Life magazine, which you can also find in his book How to Be Well: “Place both hands on your belly, just below your bottom ribs. Rest the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth. Take a slow, deep inhalation through your nose. Draw your breath all the way into your belly, past your chest. Notice your diaphragm moving downward and feel your belly and rib cage expand. When you can take in no more air, exhale slowly through your nose until your lungs are empty – you’ll feel your belly falling under your hands. Repeat 10 cycles. As you continue, see if you can extend the exhale until it is twice the length of the inhale. Breathing this way helps quiet spinning thoughts and brings you back to your body in the present moment.”

Vagal Nerve Stimulating Breathing Exercise (also called 4-7-8 Breathing)           

This exercise (which I love to do every day) is well described by neurologist Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein in a Bulletproof podcast. Begin by sitting comfortably without crossing your arms or legs. Place the tip of your tongue right between your palate and the upper teeth. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose. Hold the breath for 7 seconds. Breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds, making a “whoosh” sound as you keep your tongue placed between your palate and upper teeth. Repeat 4 times only, twice a day.

Breathing Exercise Paired with Visualization

I read about this breathing exercise in a book titled The Fourfold Path to Healing, by Dr. Thomas Cowan, Sally Fallon, et al., and find the visualization very relaxing. Picture yourself by the seashore and as a wave comes crashing at your feet, breathe out. Pause for a few seconds, then as a new wave forms in the distance, take a deep breath in. Hold your breath for a few seconds, then breathe out as the new wave reaches your feet again. Repeat this breathing exercise a few times.

Which breathing exercise is your favorite?

Until next time!


Asprey, Dave. Talking Dirty about Spiritual Plants and Microbial Biodiversity. Accessed 17 Aug. 2019.

Cowan, Thomas S, et al. The Fourfold Path to Healing : Working with the Laws of Nutrition, Therapeutics, Movement and Meditation in the Art of Medicine. Washington D.C., Newtrends Pub, 2004, pp. 50–3.

Greenfield, Ben. Boundless : Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defy Aging. Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc, 2020, p. 49.

Lipman, MD, Frank. “6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life.” Experience Life, July 2018, pp. 68–9.

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