Breathing and Osteopathy

The breath is one of the most valuable tools when it comes to relaxation and stress relief. Simple breathing exercises can contribute greatly to mental and physical relaxation. Tension in the muscles, especially around the neck and shoulders, can often be caused by stress and breathing techniques can relax these muscles, reducing pain and achiness.

Using the breath effectively

There are many different ways in which the breath can be used effectively, and what works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to find a technique that suits you.

The simplest way to breathe effectively is simply to breathe consciously, also known as breath awareness. Conscious breathing helps cultivate inner stillness and presence, and it is grounding in moments of stress.

To practice breath awareness, sit down on the floor or on a chair and turn your attention to your natural breath. Conscious breathing shifts our focus onto our senses and gradually eases muscle tension and stressful thoughts.

For a more controlled breathing exercise, you can practice breath-control exercises. This is where, instead of focusing on your natural breathing rhythm, you practice a controlled breathing pattern that is often deeper and slower. You can find lots of controlled breathing exercises online or in books. Examples of breath-control exercises include guided meditation and breathwork.

A popular and simple breath-control exercise is ‘box breathing’. This is where you inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat. The visual of a box is used for this exercise as each inhale, hold, and exhale is four seconds each time.

Using the breath to relieve tension

The breath can be used alongside movement to relieve tension in the muscles. The combination of controlled breath and movement allows the muscles to relax and let go of tightness whilst also improving mobility and mindfulness.

To relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, practice slowly turning your head from side to side and up and down, matching each movement with a slow inhale and exhale. You can also shrug your shoulders up and down one at a time – the inhale on the shrug and the exhale on the drop.

If you are experiencing lower back pain, an effective exercise is to lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground and your arms outstretched. Slowly windscreen wipe your knees from side to side, moving from the hips. Inhale and exhale deeply with each movement – you can use the ‘box breathing’ technique here. You should feel a stretch through your lower back and hips.

The breath and osteopathy

We recommend practicing effective breathing alongside osteopathy due to it’s destressing and relaxing results. Tension and achiness in areas such as the neck, shoulders and lower back are very common and are often the result of stress.

If you are experiencing muscle and joint pain, you may benefit from osteopathy. If you wish to make an appointment, or if you have any questions, contact us on 0121 705 4499, or email us at