by Amber Young, RMT

(image: Melanie Weidner, 2005,

With the increasing stress created in the world around us, the extra demands we place upon ourselves personally and in our working lives, it’s more important than ever to take time to stop, reconnect with your internal state, and simply breathe.

The majority of individuals use only 1/3 of their lung capacity; we have forgotten how to breathe fully.  People are generally unconscious to their breath, letting the often chaotic rhythm of life dictate the rhythm of their breath.  By taking a mere 5-15 minutes a day to tune into your breath, you can actually reprogram this chaotic rhythm.  Taking a simple full deep breath helps a person to relax, alter their perception of the presenting stress, and calm the mind.

Breathing is realistically the only physical process of the stress response over which a person can exercise conscious control.  When our bodies are under a lot of stress, or we’re deeply concentrating we often hold our breath, or revert to rapid shallow breathing, which in turn creates more internal stress on the body and the mind.

Only when you’re breathing fully is your body actually capable of responding positively to stressful situations. Breathing will support a greater relaxation response in your body, which will help you to cope with expected and unexpected stress, as your body will slowly become familiar with this new way of responding to stress.   Taking a simple full deep breath helps a person to relax, decrease their stress, and calm their mind.

Jon Kabat-Zin (author of Full Catastrophe Living and numerous other phenomenal works) put it so perfectly when he said, “In this process of relaxation, of self-nurturing, and taking time out of our stress, ‘our doing’, we can start with an assumption that as long as we are breathing there is more right with us than there is wrong.”  Something I think we so easily forget.

How to Breathe for Relaxation: The Full Resting Breath

  • Sit in a comfortable position, with your back straight – this allows for a greater ease in your breathing.
  • Inhale slowly, through your nose (if this is comfortable – otherwise please breath through your mouth) – breathing deeply and consciously
  • To a count of 5 – first fill the lower part of your lungs, feeling your abdomen push out as you inhale, bring the breath to the middle of your lungs feeling your ribs expanding, now into your upper chest – the upper part of your lungs, feel the expansion as your shoulders settle back in response to this phase of your breath.
  • Slowly begin your exhale to a count of 5, allowing the air to leave from your upper chest, your rib cage, and now slowly pulling your abdomen in to hug your spine – allowing your body to rid itself of any stale oxygen in the bottom of your lungs
  • Briefly pause after the exhale, and allow the next inhalation to begin
  • Repeat at least 5 times in repetition, 3 times a day

If it helps, while introducing this breath into your body, do so with your eyes closed and simply concentrate and feel the inflow and outflow of your breath. If you mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath, and the movement of your body as you respond to the natural flow of your breath.

Breathing in this way, as described above, provides your body with the following benefits:

  • Purification of the blood stream
  • Strengthens the lungs, thorax and abdomen
  • Increases resistance to colds
  • Calms the nervous system, calms the mind
  • Aids digestion
  • Increases confidence
  • Helps to lift depression

Amber Young
, Registered Massage Therapist, has a diverse background in massage, breast health, cancer support through massage, stress management and relaxation techniques. She has a deep respect for the healing of an individual’s physical, emotional and mental health, and feels that a holistic model of care is key in finding one’s way to wholeness.  Amber practices massage at the Carp Ridge Natural Health Clinic Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Call 613-839-1198 or book online at the Clinic page at