The Sigh Breath

The Sigh Breath: the ‘Instant Tranquiliser’

The Sigh Breath is a very simple breathing method for releasing tension in your chest, diaphragm and neck areas. It can be an excellent way of managing the symptoms of anxiety or panic.

It is a moderate (rather than very deep) inhale through the nose followed by a fairly prolonged and slow exhale through the nose or mouth – as a prelude to allowing your breathing to become slower and shallower.

How to use the Sigh Breath

  1. Silently think or say to yourself Stop!
  2. Now breathe in through nose slowly and evenly. Pausing for just a second let the air out quite slowly through your nose.  Remember that the inhale is a moderate, rather than very deep, in-breath. The outbreath is the key to the method. Be sure to prolong it. L-e-n-g-t-h-e-n your exhale. (This helps retain carbon dioxide – your ‘natural tranquiliser’.)
  3. As you let the air out let go!  Relax your muscles – release as much tension as you can. Pay particular attention to the muscles in your
    • Face & jaw
    • Shoulders
    • Abdomen
  4. …pay attention to the natural pause that occurs at the end of the exhale. No need to think about breathing in – this will happen naturally after a second or two. Simply enjoy this moment of stillness between breathing cycles.
  5. …as the in-breath begins direct your attention outside yourself to what is happening in the outside world – `See clearly’ and `Hear clearly’. Silently pay attention to what you can see and hear. Without listing or naming them.

Although the method involves five steps the whole cycle of in-breath – brief pause – out-breath takes only a few seconds.

The Sigh Breath is a way of interrupting the buildup of physical stress and tension rather than a breathing technique to do over and over again. Initially one or two Sigh Breaths every half hour or so may be appropriate. Then aim to reduce the need to do it except for very tense periods.

Why use the Sigh Breath?

The Sigh Breath can become your ‘instant tranquiliser’.  It is a deceptively simple little technique which has many benefits:

  • It instantly reduce your tension level through temporarily raising your blood carbon dioxide level
  • The See Clearly – Hear Clearly part of the method directs your attention outside of yourself. This interrupts the common and un-useful tendency that most of us have, when we feel anxious or upset, to ruminate – to become very absorbed with our thoughts and feelings.
  • Engages your attention for a few moments. When you use it regularly you momentarily interrupt your internal stress-building loop in which your stressful thoughts result in stressful feelings which, in turn, exacerbate the stressful thoughts.of negative thoughts – negative feelings – negative thoughts. This takes you out of the loop and into practical action.
  • It helps draw your attention to the build-up of physical tension in your body – and especially in the throat, chest, and abdomen.
  • It gives you something to do when you feel anxious or panicky, rather than simply remain a passive victim of your moods.
  • It makes you aware of and interrupts the common (and quite unuseful) tendency, in anxiety states, to hold or restrict your breath.


by Reg Connolly

Scroll to Top