Get More from your Massage: Breathing

How would you like to learn a simple technique that will take your experience of your massage up a notch – inducing greater relaxation, stress-relief and pain relief? Breathing is the key. It’s one of the simplest things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your massage, and can be used at any time during the day to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind.

In any given moment it’s highly likely that you’re breathing shallow. Think about your breathing right now. Without changing how you’re breathing this moment, evaluate your breath. Are you breathing shallow, pulling air only a little into the lungs? Do you primarily feel your rib cage expanding and collapsing with each breath or do you feel your abdomen expand each time you breathe?

The deeper you breathe into your lungs, the more relaxation you’ll feel. Deep breathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure and elicits a relaxation response in the body. It stretches out the diaphragm, the muscle beneath your lungs that pulls down on the lungs, increasing their size and drawing air down into them.  Relaxed, deep breathing can calm the mind, center your thoughts and help you focus as well.

Deep breathing, like yawning, is contagious. While you’re sitting next to a child, a spouse or loved one, take a deep breath. Take a long time to inhale and exhale out in a very relaxed manner. Chances are the person you’re next to will take a deep breath. If it doesn’t work with one deep breath, try three or four. I use this in sessions all the time.  I don’t often verbally encourage my clients to breath. Instead, I take a deep breath while I’m working on a client, and usually, that elicits a deep breath from the client.

Deep breathing suggestions:

  1. During the inhale, try to pull the air down into the lowest part of the lungs. Expand your belly and push it out as your lungs fill with air. If it helps, place your hand on your belly and try to push it out with your breath.
  2. Pause for a few moments before you start your exhale.
  3. To exhale, open your mouth and breathe out. During the exhale, try to push all of the air out of your lungs. Bring the belly back in and keep exhaling until your lungs are empty.
  4. Wait a moment, then repeat.

If you start feeling light-headed take a break for a few minutes. If you’re in a massage, take 5-10 deep breaths several times during the session. I do this every time the therapist starts to work on a new part of the body. When she starts work on the back, I take 5 deep breaths. As she starts work on each arm, I breathe deeply again, and so on.  If you do better watching videos, I found a short, easy video on webmd:

Deep, relaxed breathing doesn’t just slow down the body, it has the potential to slow down your mind and keep you focused and centered. Most meditation and spiritual practices include focus on the breath. The power of conscious breathing – full of awareness for the present moment – can be both relaxing and refreshing.

“Advanced Breathing”

To take yourself deeper into relaxation/meditation with this exercise that combines breathing and body awareness.

  1. Take a deep breath in as before, pulling the air down into the bottom of your lungs. Check in with the muscles of your scalp, head and face. See if any feel tight, restricted or tense.
  2. Pause for a moment.
  3. On the exhale, let your muscles in your scalp and face relax. Feel the tension of your forehead, your eyes, your cheeks, your jaw all go out of your body with the exhale.
  4. Take another deep breath, this time let the tension fall away from your scalp, head, face and now the shoulders. Continue the deep breaths, slowly releasing tension as your work your way down the body. Let your arms relax, your chest, your abdomen, your pelvis, your back, your lower back, your hips, your legs and even your feet relax as you work down the body.

Deep breathing is an easy way to talk the body into relaxing. Even when you’re in the middle of a huge rush or stressful issues, a few deep breaths will make all the difference. It makes an amazing difference when used to melt into the table while getting a massage. The results can make your next massage your best one yet.

Photo credit – CCL User: AlicePopkorn


  1. Jay said,

    August 30, 2011 at 8:43 am

    i never thought breathing could be so important. looking forward to trying these techniques in my next massage. also check out

  2. D. said,

    September 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    A breathing technique I learned from a friend who is a child psychologist – never take deep breaths in through your mouth. It’s very easy to hyperventilate by doing that, so always breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your nose, as well, with a slight amount of force. This is an excellent exercise for people who suffer from panic and anxiety, too. They often are hyperventilating (or even holding their breath) and don’t even realize it. Each time you take a deep breath, try to make it a bit deeper until you feel your lungs cannot hold another bit of air, then expel it through your nose quickly, with a bit of force. Very cleansing.

  3. Heather Wibbels said,

    September 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    D. – Thank you for the comments on breathing. There are some schools of thought that would rather have the exhale take place through the mouth, but I’m all for figuring out what works best for each in individual, and in any case, deep breathing is wonderful for the body and mind. Thanks for bringing up the point about hyperventilation!

  4. sell timeshare said,

    September 11, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Deep breathing is one of the easiest stress relief exercise. Everyone can do this every time. It actually helps us in circulating blood. Deep breathing for me is the best stress and tension reliever.

  5. CNW Massage School said,

    October 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks for getting the word out that deep breaths can enhance the effectiveness of massage! When a massage client uses breathing techniques to relax, it can help the massage therapist provide an even more positive experience. And thanks for passing along the link to that WebMD video; it was a quick clip that did a nice job of demonstrating this technique.

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