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Breathing to help performance

Whether your aim is to reduce stress and anxiety, focus for an exam or perform better in your sport.  Breathing research over the last 5 years has become more serious, with very robust studies and experiments being produced in some of the top research institutes in the world. 

Breathing techniques have now been proven to be able to impact our autonomic nervous system (the automatic processes in our body like heart rate, brain alertness or sleepiness).  In this page we want to showcase some of this research to help you influence 2 functions:

1. Calming down - to help sleep, reduce stress and anxiety. 

2. Increase focus - before exercise, presentations or exams and to help with chronic stress.


Watch this great video below from Professor Andrew Hubberman to find out more detail.

Calming down breathing

Breathing exercises to help calm down the autonomic nervous system focus more on the exhale.  The exhale is often lengthened compared to the inhale.  

Stress test - The longer you can gently exhale through your nose can give you a rough indication of your stress levels.

Take a deep breath in and release slowly. 

Average time is between 30-40 secs. 

You can use this throughout the day to check in how stresses you might be. 

If this is low then you may want to focus on some calming down breathing techniques. 

See below for calming down breathing techniques. 

Girl Relaxing

Increase focus breathing

Breathing exercises to increase focus concentrate more on the inhale. So the inhale is longer and you don't exhale fully.  

These breathing exercises have been popularized recently by Wim Hof. This technique consists of 30-40 fast breaths, then a breath hold for as long as comfortable. You repeat this 3-4 times.  

High quality studies have shown that this technique can improve your immune response to infection, reduce chronic stress and provide focus prior to exercise, sport or an intense period of work. 

See below for the increase focus technique. 

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There are many different versions of these breathing techniques. Below is a technique to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the calming down system).  This looks at 4 sec inhale, 7 sec hold, 8 sec exhale all through the nose. 

Other techniques include:

1. Physiological sigh - very quick technique to reduce stress.

2. Box breathing - used by navy seals to reduce adrenalin and calm their focus.

See the videos below for these techniques researched to calm you down.

Other interesting videos on breathing control

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