Breathing Techniques For Self Regulation

  • Post last modified:December 19, 2023
  • Post category:Counseling

We have been living through tumultuous times and, unfortunately, many of  us have not been able to take the time and space to grieve and process all we have witnessed and experienced this last year and a half. At Kaafi Counseling, we are committed to providing inclusive healing spaces and accessible resources including tools we can add to our tool-box that can help us process and integrate our experiences. 

Let us get some definitions out of the way first before we share the breathing techniques:

  1. Nervous System Down-Regulation:

Nervous System Down-Regulation refers to the calming effect brought on by diverse inputs such as conscious breathing, a safe hug, eating comforting foods, etc. 

  1. Nervous System Up-Regulation:

Nervous System Up-Regulation refers to the increase in stress hormones and feelings of discomfort, down-regulation is it’s opposite. 

Conscious Breathing Practice:

A regular conscious breathing practice is a powerful tool to assist with Nervous System Down-Regulation.  It can help to physically calm our bodies by giving us sufficient oxygen and stimulating our vagus nerve. This physical calm often translates smoothly into an increased emotional calm. Conscious breathing is something we can do anywhere, at almost any time. Give it a try! 

Here we offer three breathing techniques that support a process of nervous system down-regulation.

  • 4,5,6 Breathing
    • This counting based breath is quick and efficient. It can be useful in times of stress and it’s effects can often be felt after just a few rounds. 
    • Breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of five, and breath out of your mouth for a count of six. 
    • Repeat this breathing practice as many times as is desirable.
  • Wave Breath
    • This breath can require a bit more concentration and can be useful for a deeper relaxation. Try this breath in bed, while you lay on the couch, or after exercise. 
    • Find a comfortable, reclined position. As you slowly inhale, allow your lower belly to expand. As your inhale continues, allow your ribs to expand, then your chest. As you slowly exhale, allow your chest to contract, then your ribs, then your lower belly. Envisioning and sensing a 360 degree expansion and contraction, of the front, side and back of your body simultaneously. 
    • Repeat this breathing exercise as many times as is desirable. 
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing
    1. This breath is drawn from yogic practices. It is often calming and energizing and can even help to clear sinuses. 
    2. With your right pinky and ring finger, close your left nostril and inhale deeply. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril, so that both are closed, and hold the breath briefly. Open your left nostril, and exhale deeply. Inhale through your left nostril. 
    3. Repeat cycle about 10 times, or as many times as is desirable. 

Let us take a collective breath toward our healing.