The Evidence Portal

Breathing exercises

Flexible activity

Breathing exercises are another common activity within mindfulness and self-regulation programs. Deep breathing can help you relax and centre your body. As a result of stress, the body’s autonomic nervous system is activated which can cause increased heart rate, fast breathing and high blood pressure. Breathing exercises decrease these autonomic responses and help the body to relax, reduce tension and relieve stress.

The practice of breathing and deep breathing can help to relieve anxiety and stress. Breathing exercises are a skill that improves with practice and when taught to a young person(s), can be continually practiced at home or outside of the program environment.

How can it be implemented?

Trained facilitators can guide participants through breathing exercises in-person or remotely and during one-on-one or group sessions.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of different target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • School students
  • Students attending an alternative education school because of concerns regarding presence of one or more risk factors for academic failure including poor grades, truancy, disruptive behaviour, repeated suspension or expulsion
  • Young adults aged 14-20
  • 18-19 year-old college students

What programs conduct this activity?

  • In the Kripalu Yoga in the Schools (KYIS) curriculum, yoga practice included a 5 minute centering and breathing exercise. Sample breathing techniques included ocean breath (breathing through the nose while slightly constricting the oesophagus), alternate-nostril breathing (breathing in through one nostril and out the other), and 3-part breathing (deep diaphragmatic breathing moving from the abdomen to the solar plexus and upper chest).
  • During the Transformative Life Skills (TLS) program, students engaged in the Action-Breathing-Centering Activities (ABCs) which guide students through yoga postures, focused breathing and centering meditation.
  • No program name: yoga intervention consists of 42 standard yoga sessions which involve breathing as a constituent component.
  • Just Breathe provided students with stickers that reminded them to use mindfulness techniques, i.e. three mindful breaths, in response to stress in the home environment

What else should I consider?

Breathing exercises should be delivered by a trained facilitator.

Further resources

Last updated:

24 Nov 2022

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