AMALAwellness – Gentle Breathwork techniques- calm the nervous system & calm the mind …

In class, we often cover gentle breathwork at the beginning and at the end of our Yoga and Meditation sessions. Gentle breathwork has an important effect on soothing the nervous system:

Our nervous system is out of balance when we feel stressed, depressed or anxious.

Our nervous system has two main branches:
1. Sympathetic – Fight or flight symptoms (Survival mode)

2. Parasympathetic – Resting/relaxed state

When we are feeling stressed, anxious or fearful, our body and nervous system operate in the sympathetic branch of the nervous system. This causes to body to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which, when released too often, takes a toll on the body both physically and mentally. Being in this over-active state makes our mind race and causes us to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies. Often, our heart rate increases and we feel we cannot switch off or relax.

On the converse, when we operate from the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, it over-rides the parasympathetic leaving us feeling more rested and calmer.

How can we function more from the Parasympathetic?

There are lots of ways to switch to the parasympathetic, such as having a calm environment and home life, balancing work life vs home life and practicing yoga and meditation. However, today we are going to look at a gentle breathwork exercise to practice. This can be done anywhere, anytime!

A gentle breathwork practice – Part One

  1. If you’re practicing at home, set up a safe space and environment where you will not be disturbed. Perhaps, burn your favourite incense, or light a candle (I always like to make a spiritual safe space before meditating or doing breathwork).
  2. Sit comfortably, perhaps on a cushion and focus on the breath.
  3. Focus on the breath as you inhale & exhale – observe the lungs and the ribcage, what is happening?
  4. Start to slow the breath down for a count of four as you inhale and exhale, perhaps elongating the exhale a little longer.
  5. Place your hand on your chest and complete 10-20 rounds breathing like this.
  6. Return to a normal breath, pause and reflect – how does the body and mind feel after this short exercise?

A gentle breathwork practice – Part Two

Four Part Box Breath

  1. Inhale for a count of four, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.
  2. Retain the breath for a count of four.
  3. Exhale for a count of four, from the crown of the head to the base of the spine.
  4. Retain the breath for a count of four.
  5. Complete as many rounds as you feel comfortable doing, remembering this is your practice. Take normal breaths when needed then come back to the practice. Complete 3-4 rounds.
  6. Return to a normal breath, pause and observe. How does the body feel? How does the mind feel?

These short, gentle exercises can really help to switch the sympathetic nervous system off and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

Do you practice breathwork? Did you give this practice a try? I’d love to hear your views and experiences.

Aimee x

AMALAwellness – Teesside run Gentle Yoga, Beginners Yoga and mindful meditation classes across Middlesbrough , Stockton and Redcar & Cleveland.

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