Conscious Breathing

Letting Go and Inspiring Presence

By Heath and Nicole Reed
[Savvy Self-Care]

“Presencing” is the ability to bring our awareness into the here
and now. And, our breath is one of the most powerful tools to practice presencing. Breathing can guide our attention, calm our emotions, and clear our thoughts. Respiration is one of the only physiological systems that may be operated unconsciously or consciously, and the act of breathing has the potential to bridge biology and energy, habit and choosing, and, some suggest, the mundane and the divine.

Multidimensional Breathing

What specific sensations put you in touch with the inner dimensions of your body?
Many people are more attracted to, and occupied by, the onslaught of impressions coming from the outside world. We can easily become entranced and distracted by the thoughts and feelings that arise as a result of external events—we often override our internal signals, sensations, and the copious resource of our body wisdom. Generally, many only pay attention to their body sensations during intense physical experiences like pleasure, pain, or discomfort. But there is so much more to explore, discover, and feel! Our intelligent bodies are constantly speaking to us, informing us about our relationship to ourselves, others, and our environment. And, perhaps even more importantly, these sensations offer us a passageway into presence.
Though breathing is usually run by our unconscious autopilot, when we assume the driver’s seat and consciously shift our breath, we recalibrate our attention and inspire more energy to get where we want to go. Our breathing responds and adjusts according to the thoughts we are thinking, the feelings and body signals we are sensing, and to what we are witnessing and experiencing. Breathing is intimately connected to our physical and emotional state and vice versa. In other words, when we change how we breathe, we change how we feel.

“ ... breath as ‘pneuma’ is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. If we inhibit our breathing, we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all [Asian] and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss.”
— Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body

Practice Bliss with Diaphragmatic Breathing

The number-one breathing problem for most people is tightening their diaphragm when they breathe.1 Use no force—physically or psychologically—as you notice your beautiful breathing body. Perhaps you can even feel yourself being breathed with this practice.
Begin by following your breath in through your nose, passing through your trachea, and sinking down into your abdomen. Sense the muscles that create the motion of breathing, like your diaphragm and intercostals. As you inhale, enjoy the sensation of your ribs gently opening laterally like venetian blinds and your diaphragm bellowing down like an upside-down umbrella doming into the belly. Perhaps you can discern your inhale massaging your liver, stomach, and intestines. On the exhale, feel your ribs rotate back to start and the diaphragm pressing upward, massaging your heart through your pericardial sac. As you continue, is there any way you can soften your breath? Can you feel the synchronous dance of your diaphragm moving with each breath? What would it feel like to experience yourself being breathed?

The Letting-Go Breath

We were surprised to learn that we eliminate most of our body’s wastes through our lungs—not through our large intestine, as we had imagined. A hefty 70 percent of our bodies’ metabolic waste is eliminated through our exhalations, while the other 30 percent of our bodies’ wastes are eliminated through feces, urine, and sweat.2
The letting-go breath has been taught and practiced for thousands of years as a powerful gateway to release tension and stress. Use this breath as a first-aid tool any time you’re feeling frustrated, nervous, sad, fatigued, angry, etc. In fact, use this breathing technique whenever you want to practice inner alchemy and change one state of being into another. The joy and simplicity of this breath allows you to play with it anywhere and at any time.
1. Inhale gently and fully through your nose.
2. Exhale gently out an open mouth.
3. Repeat for three or more cycles or minutes. Notice how this makes you feel.
For an added bonus, imagine inhaling an uplifting quality (like joy, ease, or love), and then exhale whatever no longer serves you (like criticism, blame, or stress). Each breath is an invitation to receive on your inhalation and to let go on your exhalation.
Double bonus: inject this into your bodywork practice when you and your client encounter an intense area of restriction or holding. While you are adding pressure, coach your client to “inhale and inflate into that space.” As they exhale, invite them to “imagine any pain, tension, or stress exiting the area and out their entire body.” Repeat for about three cycles, and notice the positive shift in your clients’ ability to let go.

Refresh with the Reset Breath

Conscious breathing pioneer Gay Hendricks advocates the following breathing practice to optimize several of the scientifically validated benefits of conscious breathing, like reduced anxiety and depression, lowered blood pressure, feeling less stressed and overwhelmed, increased energy levels, and encouraged muscle relaxation.3 Because many people do not take full inhalations (think chest breathers) and do not exhale fully, a tremendous amount of CO2 stays trapped in our pleura and our body. This excess CO2 concentration leads to higher blood acidity and the age-related wear and tear associated with oxidation. To prevent this metaphorical rusting of our body, utilize the Reset Breath to balance your pH, avoid getting sick, and powerfully presence yourself.
1. Enjoy a few easy diaphragmatic breaths (as described above).
2. Next, inhale through your nose and gently exhale out your mouth. It’s essential not to hold your breath at the top of the inhalation and likewise exhale in a smooth, easy way.
3. After you exhale all of your air out, hold your breath out, without tightening any muscles, for one or more heartbeats. Just before your body would tense to reach for more breath, gently inhale through your nose and exhale as you enjoy a few transitional diaphragmatic breaths.
4. When you’re ready again, repeat steps 1–3 for about 2 minutes. You just infused your bloodstream with higher levels of oxygen and created inner alchemy!4

Share the Gift

We take 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 a day, 8,409,600 a year, and approximately half a billion breaths in a lifetime.5 That means we have over 20,000 opportunities every day to start fresh and presence ourselves. With every inhale, we can choose to invite what we want more of, and with every exhale we can let go of something we no longer need. It’s an evolutionary and revolutionary act to share the gift of conscious breathing with our family, friends, and clients. As an LMT, you are an example of evolutionary well-being, as you offer hope, care, and possibilities to every person you touch! We encourage you to incorporate conscious breathing into every session and every day, so you feel good while giving, and so your clients, friends, and family feel good in the receiving of your touch, inspiration, and presence. We’ll take a deep breath into that! Ahhhhhh ...


1. Gay Hendricks, Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery (New York: Bantam, 1995).
2. Dennis Lewis, The Tao of Natural Breathing: For Health, Well-Being, and Inner Growth (Berkeley: Rodmell Press, 2006).
3. Sheila Patel, “Breathing for Life: The Mind-Body Healing Benefits of Pranayama,” The Chopra Center, accessed May 2018,
4. The Hendricks Institute, “The Breathing Coach: Two Essential Practices for Vibrance and Harmony,” accessed May 2018,
5. Walker Meade, “Every Breath You Take,” Herald Tribune, January 12, 2010, accessed May 2018,

Heath and Nicole Reed are co-founders of Living Metta (living “loving kindness”) and want everyone in the world to enjoy the experience of befriending their body. The Reeds lead workshops and retreats across the country and overseas, including Thailand and Mexico, and have been team-teaching touch and movement therapy for 16 years. In addition to live classes, the Reeds offer massage therapy and self-care videos, DVDs, and online trainings, which may be found online at