Breathing is involuntary, which means most of the time you probably don’t give it much thought. Yet when things go awry, like when you’re stressed, anxious, or afraid, you’ll probably notice changes in your breathing. But you can also harness your breath to inspire calm and focus, especially in moments you need a soothing boost.

Breath work is a form of mind-body training that uses deep, diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, which per research, may trigger relaxation responses in the body and lead to a number of health benefits. A research review published in January 2023 in Scientific Reports, for example, concluded that breath work may be effective for improving stress and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

“We’re all often running at top speed through our days and under constant stress and strain,” says Kate Ingram, registered dietitian-nutritionist and certified yoga teacher in Stamford, Connecticut, who uses breath work as part of her coaching and teaching. “Chronic stress is linked to everything from headaches and poor sleep to anxiety, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Simple deep breathing techniques can really help alter our stress patterns and change these health trajectories.”

What’s more, breath work is highly accessible and you don’t need any special training to get started. “The great thing about breath work is that anyone can do it,” says Ann Russo, LCSW, a professional therapist in Long Beach, California. “You don't need to be a consistent practitioner of meditation or yoga to start reaping the benefits. All you need is a few minutes of quiet and a willingness to experiment with different breathing techniques.”

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