Counseling Center

Breathing Exercises

Belly (or Diaphragmatic) Breathing

You can do this exercise in any position, but it is helpful to do this exercise while lying down when first learning belly breathing.

  1. Lie comfortably on your back, with a pillow under your head, your knees bent and your back flat. You can stretch your legs out if that's more comfortable.
  2. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your upper chest.
  3. Inhale slowly and expand your belly as you breathe so that your lower hand moves with your belly. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  4. Slowly exhale, focusing on the movement of your belly and lower hand as it returns to its original position.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for several minutes, always focusing on the movement of the belly as you breathe. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.

Breath-Counting Exercise

This exercise focuses on the use of counting with the rhythm of the breath.  Start with a short period of time and gradually increase the time. Set a timer so that you do not have to worry about when to stop.

  1. Find a comfortable position. Take several deep breaths and settle into yourself. You may either close your eyes or keep them open, depending on your own comfort. If you keep them open, fix them on an object or a spot on the floor about four feet in front of you. Your eyes may be either focused or unfocused.
  2. Take deep, comfortable breaths. Notice your inhalation. The pause between inhaling and exhaling, your exhalation, and the pause before starting again.
  3. As you inhale, count, “one...” As you exhale, count, “two...” Inhale, “three...” Exhale, “four...” Continue until you reach 10 then start over.
  4. If you lose count, simply begin with “one” on your next inhalation.
  5. If you notice your mind has wandered, gently notice this, and return your focus back to counting your breath.
If you notice any body sensations catching your attention, focus on that sensation until it fades. Then return your attention back to counting your breaths.
Last Updated: 6/27/22