Relaxed Breathing

Created on
January 4, 2024

How breathing helps with pain

Pain makes you take short shallow breaths and hold tension in the tummy. Both of these things make pain worse and reinforce the danger signals to the brain. When you’re breathing in a calm relaxed state your brain ‘sees’ that everything is OK and can reverse this message to the brain.

Deep, controlled breathing calms the nervous system, stretches and relaxes tight tummy muscles, allows the bowels to work better and reassures the brain that you're safe. It's an important part of training your body to respond in a new way.

If you feel comfortable, make a loud sigh out as you breathe out (this noise vibration helps the vagus nerve switch from fight or flight stress state to relaxed state). Sometimes this alone can help reduce the pain.

Try one or more of the following breathing techniques to teach your body that it's safe and to turn down your pain response.

Starting position for all breathing exercises

If sitting, pay attention to your back and bottom in the chair, your feet on the floor. If lying down, imagine your body becoming heavy and sinking into whatever you're lying on.

Empty breath

Flare position

  1. To rapidly calm your nervous system, lie on your back with a pillow under your bottom, so your head is lower than your hips. Keep your legs bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Take relaxed breaths down into your tummy in this position to glide your nerves and soothe any irritation.
  3. Gently sway your knees side to side. Try to slow your breathing in time with the movement of your knees.

Once-a-day relaxed breathing

Square breathing

Choose a starting position – sitting or lying, relaxed with hands on your tummy.


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