Practicing Mindful Breathing

Oct 15, 2020

Written by Patricia Koehler, Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Yoga Instructor

Breathing occurs in a healthy body without much thought or effort.

Did you know that taking the time to practice intentional, or mindful breathing, can have positive effects on mood, stress levels, and the regulation of your autonomic nervous system (ANS)?

What is the Autonomic Nervous System?

The ANS is divided into two systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Many people know these systems as “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. These names describe how the two branches of the ANS regulate our body. For the most part, these regulations happen without much conscious thought on our part, but there are ways we can influence them. 

One of the easiest ways we can guide such regulation is through our breath.

When our bodies draws a breath in, our heart rate accelerates and sympathetic tone increases. Upon exhalation, the opposite occurs. Heart rate decelerates and parasympathetic tone increases (1).

If you are feeling anxious, worried, or generally uneasy try some mindful breathing making your inhale longer than the exhale. Either in a seated position, or lying down, count your breath. A good place to start is taking an inhale for the count of 4 and exhale for the count of 7. If that feels too labored, find a count ratio that is easier for you. 

Did you know that the right and left nostrils also correlate to the ANS (3)

The right side increases sympathetic activity and the left increases parasympathetic. Another simple way to calm your body and mind is with left nostril breathing. All you have to do is gently close off your right nostril and take some long, deep breaths.  

While practicing either of these techniques move your breath deep into the belly and diaphragm, yet another part of cuing the parasympathetic system (2). Try to avoid breathing into the chest and shoulders.

Keep calm and breathe on! 


Trish is a certified Yoga instructor and a licensed massage therapist. She runs Evergreen's Yoga Basics Online Workshop every Wednesday, helping people strengthen their foundational practice of yoga. Aside from yoga and massage, Trish also works one on one with patients providing customized fitness work outs to helping to reach their personal fitness goals. 




Request an appointment with Trish for private, in-person or online yoga sessions!





  1. Tortora GJ & Grabowski SR (2004). Introduction to the human body: The essentials of anatomy and physiology (sixth edition). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. Tyagi, A., Cohen, M., Reece, J., Telles, S., & Jones, L. (2016). Heart rate variability, flow, mood, and mental stress during yoga practices in yoga practitioners, non-yoga practitioners, and people with metabolic syndrome. Association For Applied Psychophysiology And Biofeedback. Published online July 25, 2016.
  3. Pal, G.A., Agarwal, A., Karthik, S., Pal, P., & Nanda, N. (2014). Slow yogic breathing through right and left nostril influences sympathovagal balance, heart rate variability, and cardiovascular risks in young adults. North American Journal of Medical Sciences (6)3, 145-151.

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