Rest • 24 Aug 2020

Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief + Audio Exercises!

By uci_admin

Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief + Audio Exercises!

By Darlene Lee, ND – SSIHI Naturopathic Practitioner

Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute

UCI Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

During these stressful times, it is important that you have an array of stress management tools at your fingertips. We are happy to share a few recordings for you to use for these purposes. All are designed to help the body and the mind relax.

The first recording guides you through the practice of diaphragmatic breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing, we breathe with maximal engagement of the diaphragm, which is a dome shaped muscle separating the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity (pictured below).

When we breathe diaphragmatically in a slow, rhythmic and relaxed fashion, we stimulate a relaxation response in the body, and help the nervous system become more adaptable[1],[2]. This recording will help you practice diaphragmatic breathing by coaching you and giving you important pointers.

Lee, D. (2020). Diaphragmatic Breathing. Susan Samueli Integrative Institute. April 18, 2020.

Next, we have a recording of a Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) practice. Many studies show that relaxing one’s muscles markedly reduces anxiety[3],[4],[5],[6]. In the same way that people form habitual patterns of muscle tension in their body, people can also teach themselves how to relax these patterns. This recording will walk you through a PMR practice by leading you through a process of tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, timed with the breath.

Carlton, A. (2020). Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Susan Samueli Integrative Institute. April 21, 2020.

Lastly, you may also try listening to our recording of Autogenic Training. Autogenic Training is a series of mental exercises utilizing “autosuggestion” to bring relaxation into the body. While it can be used for general relaxation, there is evidence that it can help specifically with insomnia and pain[7],[8],[9].

Thivierge, M. (2020). Autogenic Training. Susan Samueli Integrative Institute. April 21, 2020.

You may want to use these recordings to guide you as you learn and practice these skills. As you practice them more and more, you may find that the recordings are no longer necessary. As with all stress management practices, the more you practice them, the easier it will be to turn to them in the moments when you need them most. We recommend using some sort of relaxation practice for 10 min, twice a day.




[1] Zaccaro A, Piarulli Al, Laurino M, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12(September):1-16. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353

[2] Inna Z. Khazan, PhD, BCB. The Clinical Handbook of Biofeedback: A Step-by-Step Guide for Training and Practice with Mindfulness.), 2013. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons

[3] Li, Yunping et al. “Progressive muscle relaxation improves anxiety and depression of pulmonary arterial hypertension patients.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 792895. doi:10.1155/2015/792895

[4] Zargarzadeh M, Shirazi M. The effect of progressive muscle relaxation method on test anxiety in nursing students. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014;19(6):607-612.

[5] Manzoni GM, Pagnini F, Castelnuovo G, Molinari E. Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2008;8:41. Published 2008 Jun 2. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41

[6] Sundram BM, Dahlui M, Chinna K. Effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation therapy as a worksite health promotion program in the automobile assembly line. Ind Health. 2016;54(3):204-214. doi:10.2486/indhealth.2014-0091

[7] Arena JG, Blanchard EB (1996) Biofeedback and Relaxation Therapy for Chronic Pain Disorders. In: Gatchel RJ, Turk DC (eds) Psychological Approaches to Pain Management: A Practitioner’s Handbook. Guilford Press, New York, pp 179–230

[8] Nicassio P, Bootzin R. A comparison of progressive relaxation and autogenic training as treatments for insomnia. J Abnorm Psychol. 1974;83(3):253-260. doi:10.1037/h0036729

[9] Shapiro S, Lehrer PM. Psychophysiological effects of autogenic training and progressive relaxation. Biofeedback Self Regul. 1980;5(2):249-255. doi:10.1007/BF00998600


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