Pythagorean Breathing is an easy way to relax, be present and de-stress.  Use this breathing pattern anytime you need to calm.  Plus, it is a great exercise for helping you to relax before bedtime.

Stress breathing occurs high in the chest and even neck.  You will want to breathe low & slow for this exercise.  Try placing your hand on your stomach.  When you breathe you should be able to see your hand rise and fall with each breath.  Breathe low and slow.

Here’s how…

  1. You are going to use a count of 5-3-4 (the Pythagorean pattern) to “measure” the duration of each breath.
  2. Close your eyes and slowly inhale to the count of 5.  Hold it for a count of 3 and slowly exhale on the count of 4.  Repeat.  Here are two variations on the theme:

Variation 1: Hum two notes as you inhale and then exhale.  The sound may help you concentrate on your breathing.
Variation 2:Reverse the count and try 4-3-5.  Hey…whatever works.

Breathing: The Little Known Secret to Peace of Mind by Dr. Seppala

“A few weeks ago shooting, cars exploding, screaming, death, that was your world. Now back home, no one knows what it is like over there so no one knows how to help you get back your normalcy. They label you a victim of the war. I am not a victim… but how do I get back my normalcy? For most of us it is booze and Ambien. It works for a brief period then it takes over your life. Until this study, I could not find [the] right help for me, BREATHING like a champ!” Those were the words of a 25 year old marine, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who partook in the research study I ran with Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Whereas therapeutic and drug treatments had not helped many of the participants who volunteered for my study, a breathing practice – the intervention we used – did. One of the veterans in our study has since gone on to become an instructor so he can share the practices he learned with other veterans. “Thank you for giving me my life back,” he told us.

The Breath Is a Powerful Tool to Calm the Mind

We have an intuitive understanding that the breath can regulate our mind and emotions. Most of us have either told others or been told ourselves to “take a deep breath” when things got challenging. Most clinical psychologists use some kind of breathing practice with patients. However, because breathing happens automatically, many of us don’t give the breath as much attention as it deserves nor have we learned to harness its full potential to calm our minds.

One of the reasons why breathing can change how we feel is that emotions and breathing are closely connected. A revealing research study by Pierre Phillipot showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns. In Phillipot’s study, participants came in and were instructed to generate emotions like sadness, fear, anger and happiness to the best of their ability. While they were experiencing the emotions, Phillipot’s team requested participants to closely observe and report on their own respiration patterns. The research team found that each emotion was associated with a distinct pattern of breath. For example, when the participants felt anxious or afraid, they breathed more quickly and shallowly and when they felt happy, they breathed slowly and fully. Even more interesting was the follow-up study in which  the researchers invited in a different group of participants into their lab and instructed them to breathe in the patterns they had observed corresponded to emotions. The researchers literally told the participants how to breathe and then asked them how they felt. Lo and behold, the participants started to feel the emotions that corresponded to the breathing patterns!