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How to Lower the Heart Rate With Breathing

by Kristin Shea

About Kristin Shea

Kristin Shea has been writing professionally since 2008. Her fitness works include a yoga manual and Skincare News. She has acquired extensive legal writing experience during more than 10 years of legal practice. Shea is a licensed attorney and certified yoga instructor. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from University of Florida and a Juris Doctor from University of Miami Law School.


When you feel stressed, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallower and shorter. Your body is preparing to protect itself from life-threatening dangers. This response is called the fight or flight syndrome and is an important tool in your survival. Unfortunately, your body often cannot distinguish between real and perceived threats, and so the fight or flight response occurs during everyday stresses. By learning to control your autonomic nervous system -- the system responsible for heart rate, blood pressure and breathing -- you can control how stress affects your health.

Abdominal Breathing

Step 1

Sit comfortably. Keep your spine straight, your shoulders rolled back, your neck relaxed and your head neutrally balance on your spine.

Step 2

Place one hand on your diaphragm at your lower abdomen. Place your other hand on your chest.

Step 3

Breathe deeply into your abdomen, drawing the air through your nose, so that the hand on your lower abdomen lifts before the hand on your chest lifts.

Step 4

Pause for one count. Exhale through your mouth.

Step 5

Repeat this exercise for five to 10 breaths to train your body to take longer, deeper breaths into your abdomen.

Breath Retention

Step 1

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your shoulders back.

Step 2

Breathe deeply into your abdomen, drawing the air through your nose.

Step 3

Count to four as you exhale through your nose, starting your exhalation at one and completing your exhalation at four.

Step 4

Count to two as you inhale, starting your inhalation at one and completing the inhalation at two.

Step 5

Repeat the cycle of breathing five to 10 times. Do not pause between inhalations and exhalations. Keep the cycle of inhalations and exhalations continuous. Increase your count as you feel comfortable, but always maintain the 1:2 ratio of one inhale to every two exhales.

Meditative Breathing

Step 1

Set a pleasant-sounding alarm for the time period you plan to meditate. Start with 10 minutes and increase over time if you are new to the meditative technique. Sit in a comfortable position.

Step 2

Breathe normally, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

Step 3

Draw your attention to your breath. Do not alter your breath, but instead focus on awareness. Concentrate on the feeling of your breath as it enters and exits your nose, throat and lungs.

Step 4

Allow your breath to naturally lengthen and deepen, but don’t force it to do so. Count each breath if it helps you to focus. Continue the breathing exercise until your alarm signals the completion of your meditation period.

Step 5

Practice the technique regularly so that slowing your breath becomes second-nature. Use the technique when you feel stressed to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.


  • These breathing exercises are meant to teach you methods of using your breath to lower your heart rate. Like any other skill, the more you practice, the better the results. If you practice regularly, you will be better prepared to apply these techniques to real-life stressful situations.


  • If any of these methods cause labored breathing or panic, stop the exercise and return to normal breathing.

Photo Credits:

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.