5 Simple Breathing Techniques to Help Calm & Focus the Mind

The breath is a pretty incredible and powerful tool that comes with us wherever we go. It’s like your best friend who’s always there for you and will consistently make you feel better. The breath has the remarkable ability to bring instant calm, uplift and relax us, and can help focus and quiet the mind. It’s portable, free and easy to connect to anytime, anywhere!


Take a time out, a breathing break for yourself. Unplug from the outer world and plug into yourself. Your body and mind will thank you :)


1) Diaphragmatic Breath or Belly Breathing

The most basic breath to help settle the nervous system and calm a frazzled mind. I recommend this breath if you are feeling particularly anxious or stressed.

  • Lie down on your back with your legs bent (constructive rest) or stretched out.

  • Rest your hands on your low belly and start to settle into the natural rhythm of your breath.

  • Gradually begin to deepen your inhales, breathing in through your nose for about a 4 or 5 count, find what's comfortable for you, never force or strain. Enjoy this feeling of breathing and bringing in nourishment and space.

  • Allow your belly to fill your hands like a balloon, welcome the fullness of your breath.

  • Take some long exhales out the mouth through slightly pursed lips (as if you were blowing out a candle) and feel how the belly drains down to the lower back. Continue to settle into your body with each wave of breath, observing the rise and fall of your belly.

  • Relax your your face, jaw, neck and shoulders.

  • Continue to follow your breath with minimal effort. Breathing in calm and breathing out tensions and stress.


2) Sama-vritti (even, steady breath, matching the inhale to exhale, generally a 4 count) breath An easy quick way to sharpen your attention, balance your energy and focus the mind.

  • Sit with a straight spine or lie down.

  • Take a few gentle, relaxed belly breaths with some exhales out the mouth.

  • Exhale all your breath out pause.

  • Breathe in through your nose for a 4 count, pause.

  • Breathe out through your nose for a 4 count, pause.

  • Feel free to adjust the count so that it feels comfortable to you.

  • Observe the little gaps at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale.

  • Observe the sensation of your breath arising and dissolving from a place of total stillness.

3) Box Breathing or Square Breathing

Navy seals use this breath technique to quickly regain focus and control of the mind when under stress. Similar to the sama-vritti breath but retaining both the inhale and the exhale for a 4 count. You can also use this as a 5 minute meditation practice.

  • Sit with a straight spine and relax your shoulders.

  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze.

  • Breath in for a 4 count

  • Retain the breath for a 4 count

  • Breath our for a 4 count

  • Hold the breath out for a 4 count

  • You can visualize moving around a square or mentally visualize the numbers as you count moving up and down your spine.

4) The Sinking Breath or Visama Vritti

This is a great one to wind down at the end of the day, help you fall asleep (or get back to sleep!), or anytime you're particularly wound up, worried or anxious.

  • I recommend lying down but you can also do this sitting with a straight spine and soft shoulders.

  • Start by noticing your breath in its natural rhythm.

  • Breathing in and out of your nose, begin to count the length of your inhale, pause at the top of the inhale, and let your exhale be one count longer and find a brief pause at the bottom of the exhale.

  • Continue to extend your exhales one count at a time until the exhale is double the length of the inhale.

  • Never force or strain. Just let those exhales stretch out longer…even if it’s just for a couple of counts (for example 4/6 count or 5/7 count ratio).

  • Longer exhalations encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to take over, our rest and digest mode, and induce a feeling of calmness and relaxation.

5) Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing (subtle energy clearing breathing technique)

A great one to balance our energy, reduce stress and fatigue and establish a calm, focused mindset. This technique is also very helpful for allergies and/ or to use before a meditation practice. Our right nostril is connected to our sympathetic nervous system, the left is connected to our parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Sit with a straight spine and relax your shoulders.

  • Close your eyes or soften your gaze.

  • Bring the first two fingers of your dominant hand (index and middle) to the center of your forehead - like your pressing the reset button.

  • Your thumb and ring finger will rest right gently in the grove of the nose right below the bridge to alternate the flow of breath between nostrils.

  • Rest your opposite hand on your knee, palm down for grounding, palm up for energy.

  • Take an easy breath in and an easy breath out.

  • Now seal the right nostril with your thumb as you breath slowly through the left only.

  • Then seal the left nostril with your ring finger as you exhale out the right nostril.

  • Keep the left nostril sealed as you breathe in through the right.

  • Seal the right nostril now and slowly breathe out the left nostril.

  • That completes one round. Try several rounds until you feel there is an even flow of breath through both nostrils.

  • Sit quietly for a few moments to observe the effects.

These simple and effective pranayama (breathing) techniques can help us recalibrate in minutes and quiet all the mental chatter that goes on in our heads. By resting awareness on our breath we instantly bring ourselves back into the present moment and can center ourselves into a calmer place even amidst stressful situations.