Breathing Techniques

Deep breathing lowers stress in the body by sending a message to your brain to calm down. There are a variety of deep breathing techniques that have documented benefits. While the specific outcomes vary by technique, skill level, and the unique needs and abilities of the person practicing them, consistent outcomes for most techniques include:

  • Reducing stress and/or anxiety levels

  • Relaxation of specific muscle groups or the overall body, depending upon the point of focus

  • Helps some people fall asleep more quickly

  • Lower blood pressures and heart rates

  • Improves cardiovascular function, lung function, and respiratory endurance

  • Promotes overall well-being

Three common breathing techniques that may be helpful for individuals with dystonia are 4-7-8 Breathing, Roll Breathing, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

4-7-8 Breathing

4-7-8 Breathing is a rhythmic form of belly breathing taught by Dr. Andrew Well at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. It involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, then breathing out for 8 seconds. This cycle is repeated up to four times and can be repeated up to twice each day. If you cannot hold the pattern for the full 4-7-8 seconds, you could also divide the time and breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 3.5 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds. 

Roll or Abdominal Breathing

Roll or abdominal breathing is used to develop full use of your lungs, strengthen your diaphragm, reduce tension, and develop a connection to your body’s breathing rhythm. You can practice roll breathing in any position, but it’s easiest for those new to the technique to begin laying on their back with knees bent. If this position is not possible for you, sit in a comfortable position where you can relax your shoulders and legs. Place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Practice breathing so that your hand on your abdomen rises while the hand on your chest remains still. Once you have learned to inhale into your belly rather than your chest, begin the second step. After your lower lungs have filled (your belly has risen), fill your upper lungs as well. Full directions are available at the link above and here (slightly different phrasing with description for sitting as well as laying down).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a breathing technique specifically focused on releasing tension in different parts of the body. Many people work from their toes up to their heads, tensing one muscle group while breathing in and suddenly relaxing that muscle group while breathing out. Some audio recordings and books provide written guides to the muscle groups, the recommended order, and how to tense/relax each group. The link above provides a simple list to try the practice.

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Down with Dystonia Disclaimer

The medical information contained in this article is for general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment. It is crucial that care and treatment decisions related to Dystonia and any other medical condition be made in consultation with a physician or other qualified medical professional.

Down with Dystonia is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.

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