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Straw Breath

by Josette Aggarwal

Straw breath can quickly reduce anxiety and panic, help you cool down, increase feelings of calm and relaxation and help you think more clearly. It is like a quick healing balm.

When you’re stressed, angry or panicked, you tend to take short, shallow breaths that can increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Slow, gentle, deep breathing on the other hand, has the effect of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the “rest and digest response” or “relaxation response” - resting, calm state and balances the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers anxiety and adrenaline.

This technique is quite simple and in 5 minutes you will start noticing the difference. Children can do this with an actual or imaginary straw.


  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight, face, neck and shoulders relaxed.

  2. Inhale fully through your nose and then breathe out through pursed lips like you're breathing our through a straw. (If you have a straw with a small diameter, you can put the straw in your mouth and exhale fully and slowly through the straw). Make sure you exhale fully, be gentle; do not force the breath out.

  3. Inhale through your nose again, and exhale through the imaginary straw.

  4. Try to breathe down into your abdomen. Feel the rising movement of your abdomen as you inhale, and falling movement of the abdomen as you exhale.

  5. Next you can include some counts - for example, inhale for the count of 4 and exhale a little longer, say for the count of 6-8. Continue with this practice for about 6 breaths.

Extra tips

  • Try to pause slightly after the exhalation, to allow the inhalation to start naturally, don't force it or strain. Wait for the feeling of the inhalation to come spontaneously.

  • You may start to become aware of the natural pause of stillness between the breath. Feel the sensation of calm and profound stillness in these pauses.

  • After each of these breathing practices ask yourself or your child about their observations. Has your breath slowed down? Do you still feel stressed? Are you feeling calmer? What did it feel like after straw breath?

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