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A Breathing Practice to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

July 21, 2009
Dennis Lewis

Dennis Lewis

People often ask me for a simple breathing exercise to reduce stress and anxiety. Here is a safe, powerful practice I use personally and teach often.

Next time you feel stressed out or anxious or about to be, take an inner sensory snapshot of your entire body/mind. Simply observe what is happening in your sensations, emotions, and thoughts as honestly as you can. Then, for at least three minutes, put most of your attention on your breathing, especially on your out-breath. Let your out-breath begin to lengthen naturally as you breathe in through your nose and out through pursed lips (as though you were gently blowing on a candle without extinguishing it). Don’t pay any particular attention to your inhalation; let it arise by itself when it’s ready.

As the lengthening of your out-breath takes place, you will find yourself beginning to relax. To deepen this relaxation, you can hum quietly for several breaths during exhalation, sensing the action of the humming throughout your body. Don’t force the humming in any way, and be sure after each out-breath (hum) to simply wait for the in-breath to arise on its own.

When you’re ready to stop, just return to following your breath in and out through your nose, listening for several breaths to whatever is occurring both inside and out. Then take another sensory snapshot of yourself. How do you feel? Are you freer now from your habitual mental and emotional reactions? Are you more able now to sense the life force moving spontaneously through you? Just sense and observe what is now occurring in this amazing temple of energy that you call your body.

Copyright 2008-09 by Dennis Lewis. Adapted from a similar practice in my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Anne Zimmerman permalink
    July 28, 2009 5:45 pm

    I just have so much trouble breathing all the time…..and most often it gets worse with stress or weather or movement. I have had a cardiac workup and only have “mild” asthma….which does not respond to medication. I think I have hyperventilation syndrome…but it so severe and debilitating…that I sometimes wondor…what the heck it is. My neck and chest and shoulder and back muscles will tighten when I’m like this and hurt. I have been having great difficulty again for the past week and am so disgusted, tired and worried about it. My posture is horrible…despite my attempts to straighten . I am a “young in spirit” 46 yr. old mother of two boys and I need someone to take this seriously and help me. Any suggestions etc. I would appreciate it so much. Thanks….Anne Zimmerman

    • July 29, 2009 7:46 am

      Dear Anne,

      Thank you for writing. Given your situation and the complexity of the question you are asking, I think it best if we talk by phone. You can reach me at the phone number listed on my biography.

      With best wishes,


  2. August 25, 2009 8:36 pm

    your writings are always powerful and inspirational to me! Just wanted to say hello and thank you. I trust that we will meet one day.

    • August 25, 2009 8:43 pm


      Thank you! I hope we meet some day too.

      I wish you great success with your transformational breathing work.


  3. Cindy permalink
    November 3, 2009 6:47 pm

    Anne Zimmerman seems to have the same problems as I am having with breathing, only I am now in a permanant state. Hyperventillation seems to be what I am suffering from? This started in May, 2009. and now permantly. I have been perscribed puffers and vallume (which I refuse to take). Any suggestions here. It gets so bad, I struggle all day and it is very dehabilitating. I am 43 and a mother of 2.

  4. November 5, 2009 2:16 pm

    Cindy, per our phone conversation this afternoon, it may be helpful for you to work with the “Belly Breathing” Practice and “A Breathing Practice to Reduce Stress & Anxiety (both on this blog), as well as the “Straw Breathing Exercise” on Also, I suggest that you practice “The Smiling Breath: Quick Version” on this blog. It would also be useful for you to get my my last two books: “Free Your Breath, Free Your Life” and “Breathe Into Being.”

    I won’t say anymore here about what you believe caused this problem (though you are always free to say more), except to say that everyone should beware of imposing a new form of breathing over the way you already breathe, especially one that seems to create fast breathing with no pause after the exhalation.

    I look forward to hearing back from you Cindy to hear how it goes with these practices I recommended, along with the personal advice I gave you. Please, please, please be gentle while doing these practices.

    With warm wishes,


  5. tom i permalink
    June 21, 2010 4:27 am

    Thanks for this. I was looking for a technique that could work well just prior to presenting as I really suffer from nerves in the first few moments that sometimes almost seem to overwhelm me. Would this help banish that rising feeling of panic…?


  6. Marie-Joëlle Bouyat permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:13 am

    Your advice is already starting to work after just 2 days: I’m feeling more relaxed than I have been for a long while. Thank you, Dennis!

  7. lilian lomanto permalink
    November 13, 2010 3:13 pm

    Please I’d like tô know mote about breathing , exalating the air. I have asma And I ‘ m interested in doing breathing exercices.
    Yours faithfully
    Lilian Lomanto

    • November 13, 2010 3:30 pm

      Lilian, you can learn more by reading my books, which include many helpful practices.

  8. Richard Wallace permalink
    February 24, 2014 6:17 pm

    Thankyou Dennis…. for this fantastic, informative and interesting website. I have benefited greatly by reading your book “Free Your Breath Free Your Life”….I wasn’t aware of how “frozen” my breath( and body) had become due to withheld emotion and stress over the years….and learning to breath out “fully”, as nature intended, has been very liberating, and life changing……:) Thanks again!!! Richard.. from Australia

    • February 25, 2014 7:52 am

      Richard, you are very welcome! I’m glad the book has been helpful to you. And thanks for letting me know. Dennis

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