Melike Hussein, founder of BreathZone and certified mindfulness teacher, shares how you can feel calm and centered simply with the right breathing technique.

The two main foundations of proper breathing are diaphragmatic breathing and conscious breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing, is the most anatomically correct way to breathe.

It’s so-called because 80 per cent of the work is done by your diaphragm: the primary breathing muscle that sits under your heart and lungs. It also involves breathing in through your nose.

Get oxygen into your lungs

This way of breathing allows you to get the optimal amount of oxygen into your lungs with minimum effort as it draws air into the lowest parts of your lungs, where tiny blood vessels enable efficient oxygenation of blood.

The second part, conscious breathing, is about purposefully changing the depth, pace and rhythm of your breathing.

This helps you hack into your nervous system and take control of your physical and mental state. Your nervous system oscillates between two modes: sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest).

The sympathetic mode is your stress response, which has the sole purpose of keeping you safe. In the modern world, it can easily be triggered by routine activities such as mounting emails and deadlines.

Restore your body

The parasympathetic mode is your rest response where your brain and body restore themselves from the wear and tear of life.

Numerous studies have shown that consciously controlled breathing is highly effective in both down-regulating the sympathetic and activating the parasympathetic modes quickly and efficiently.

By breathing slowly and deeply, you can turn stress into relaxation, feel calm and alleviate unwanted emotions.

The following short exercises will help you turn stress into calm in a matter of minutes…

Three-minute diaphragmatic breathing

This is one of the most effective exercises you can do – it warms up and activates your diaphragm as well as other core muscles that support breathing.

  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface, with your knees bent. Allow your body to relax, dropping your shoulders, relaxing your face.
  2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below the ribcage.
  3. Breathing in through the nose, inhale slowly and deeply into your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  4. Let your abdominals fall inward as you exhale through mouth with pursed lips.

One-minute balancing breath

This mini exercise has its roots in coherent breathing practice – slow breathing at six breaths per minute – which is proven to alleviate anxiety. It works by calming the sympathetic fight-or-flight response and activating the parasympathetic rest-and-digest response. Try this exercise any time you feel anxiety rising.

  1. Take a moment to allow your body to relax, drop your shoulders and relax your face.
  2. Inhale through the nose to the count of five.
  3. Exhale through the mouth to the count of five.
  4. Repeat for five more rounds or as needed.

TIP: Go at your own pace as you count your breath in your mind.

One-minute mini meditation

This exercise is highly effective for helping to calm your sympathetic fight-or-flight response. Try it any time your mind is highly active with lots of swirling thoughts, or when you’re finding it difficult to gather your focus or just feeling too hurried and busy.

  1. Find a comfortable seated position with your feet placed firmly on the ground.
  2. Take a moment to allow your body to relax, drop your shoulders and relax your face.
  3. Place your hand on your belly, just under the ribcage.
  4. Focus all your attention on the movement of your belly – the gentle rise on inhale and fall on exhale.
  5. Repeat for 10 more breaths or as needed.

Melike Hussein is the creator of Transformational Conscious Breathing®, which combines a variety of Breathwork exercises and mindfulness, as well as other science-backed practices such as mindful movement, visualisation, sound, and acupressure. Find out more at Also join Melike on Instagram Live every Wednesday at 6.30pm where she and guests discuss topical subjects, sharing tips on How to Breathe Well and Live Mindfully. @breathzonelondon

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