Using Breath to Deal with Stress


Using Breath to Deal with Stress

By Guy Joseph Ale

As featured in New Spirit Journal


Breath is the foundation of life, and every aspect of your life begins with your breath. Breath is the true barometer by which to measure your mental, physical, and emotional states: level of anxiety, fitness, tightness, ease, or stress. The quality of your breath indicates how balanced and aligned the different systems of your body are at any given time.

The life force coursing through your body manifests itself through your breath.

When we learn how to master our breath we can be in control in every situation in life. Our daily routines are filled with small and big annoyances, and potential causes of anxiety. When we find ourselves in a “tight situation,” the natural tendency of the body is to stiffen, and the breath to become shallow or restricted. These are the hereditary responses of our survival mechanism: the fight or flight instinct.

The solution for situations like these is to learn to do the opposite: breathe deeply and evenly. What you want to carry with you throughout life is the clear understanding that your breath is your personal domain, and no one can enter this private space uninvited. It is your castle and your kingdom, and the firm ground on which you can stand no matter how dangerous a certain situation might seem. Whatever negative circumstances we encounter, we can always draw inside, center ourselves, and regulate our breath; deep, steady, and free.

Here are some helpful phrases to carry in your mental toolkit and to repeat silently to yourself when you face a tight situation:

  • My strength is in my breath.
  • When I control my breath I control my life.
  • The oxygen of the whole world is available to me.

This last idea is especially important: to realize that you’re never at a lack for oxygen. There’s always plenty of air around you to fill your lungs to full capacity, so you never feel deprived of breath or anxious for space or safety. Here is a simple exercise which will help you develop mastery of your breath.

Mastering  Your Breath

The advantage of the following set is that it can be done anywhere and anytime, standing, sitting, or lying on the floor. As you will see, you can also break it down to small segments, and do little portions of it as you go about your daily activities.

  • Make yourself comfortable, and concentrate on your breath.
  • Pay attention that your inhalations and exhalations are steady and even; a free, effortless pattern of breaths.
  • Now inhale on the count of 5.
  • Exhale without count.

Repeat this sequence five times.

  • Now inhale without count, and exhale on the count of 5.

Repeat this sequence five times.

  • Now inhale on the count of 10. (It helps here to use your fingers as visual reminders, so you don’t exert yourself mentally while focusing on your breath.)
  • Exhale without count.

Repeat this sequence five times

  • Now inhale without count, and exhale on the count of 10.

Repeat this sequence five times.

  • Now slowly inhale on the count of 15, using your fingers to keep track. If counting to 15 proves too difficult, don’t worry about it, count to 12.
  • Exhale without count.

Repeat this sequence five times

  • Now inhale without count, and exhale on the count of 15 or 12.

Repeat this sequence five times.

We will end this set now, and you’ll be able to repeat it as many times as you like as you go about your daily routines.

The enormous benefit of this simple exercise is that it shows you that you are in control of your breath. The fact that you are able to pace your breath over a count of 5, and then 10, and then 12, or 15, is a clear sign that you have now made your breath a conscious activity which you can manage. It is no longer something that simply happens. You have now made it a deliberate event which you can monitor and regulate in every situation in your life.

Because you can master your breath in the contained environment of this exercise, the more you practice these sets, the more you’ll be in charge of your breath in every circumstance you encounter. When you face a crisis of some kind that threatens to get out of control, you can center on your breath – because this is something that you can control – and let your breath carry you to safety.

Guy Joseph Ale is president of Lifespan Seminar and vice president of Asia Pacific Association of Psychology. He teaches and conducts workshops in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Learn more at and contact him at


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    • Teresa Mishler on

      Yes, and when we remember to breathe, our day goes by much better because we are in control! Thank you for sharing.

    • Teresa Mishler on

      You’re welcome. Breath is a powerful tool for stress relief, and I’m glad you found how it can benefit you. My day also goes by much better when I focus on my breath!

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