Grief and Breath Work

01/01/2022 0 By Helen Bowler
Grief and Breath Work

The understanding grief and breath work are so important.

In any situation when one feels anxious as if they are starting to panic and spiral into an anxious state, it is worth practicing breathing exercises. These can help both centre the mind and body.

Dirga pranayama or three part breathing taken from varying yoga practices is one of the most calming and grounding breathing exercises that you can do, helping to focus attention on the present moment and getting in tune with the sensations of your physical body. It is also one of the most simple techniques to learn that can be carried out anywhere at any time.

The act of mindful breathing and focusing on this helps to regulate the body and its intake of oxygen. By practicing this breathing technique it can be helpful, if we start to feel that wave of grief start to come over us to focus our mind on our breathing to calm that overwhelming feeling.


Mindfulness is a word and practice becoming more commonly used in today’s society. A technique that has been used traditionally in the Ravadin Buddhist tradition is called Satipatthana
Sati meaning awareness and Patthana means keeping present.
There are four foundations to mindfulness. These (according to NyANAPONIKA, 1962) are body, feelings, mind states and mind objects

The intention is to perceive and pay attention to (in an objective manner), the arising and passing away of all conditions of mind and body.
Mindfulness of the body can help one become aware of their posture, sensations affecting the body and the breath, whereas mindfulness of the mind is about being aware of the state of the mind, such as angry, sad, guilty, or, but not exclusively, a distracted mind.

Mindfulness of mental objects relates to thoughts and how these thoughts can affect mental and physical reactions

Everyday mindfulness is the easiest and most practical place to start the act of it, from the moment of awakening, or at least after the first cup of tea, but before using any technology, sit and be in the present moment by using breathing techniques. If this can be continued throughout the day, little and often rather than for long set times, say when in the shower, brushing your teeth, queuing in a shop or waiting for something, use that time to practice mindfulness and ‘feel’ how you are sat, stood, what you can focus on that you can see or smell. It is all about bringing our senses back to the here and now rather than allowing our minds to wander away and in turn affect our body.

If practicing mindfulness is helping, it is a great staring block to then move onto meditation. Meditation recordings on a cd or via YouTube, many are available as the practice grows in popularity.
It takes constant practice for these techniques to become second nature and to be able to move ourselves into a state of mindfulness more easily.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Although this practice recommends lying down, breathing techniques can be practiced anywhere at any time in any position.
​The important thing is to focus the mind if grief starts to overwhelm

Step One

Step one
Lie down on your back with the eyes closed, relaxing your face and your body. You can keep the legs outstretched or bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to the floor if that’s more comfortable. If you bend your knees, let them rest against each other.

Begin by observing the natural inhalation and exhalation of your breath without changing anything. If you find yourself distracted by the activity in your mind, try not to engage in the thoughts. Just notice them and then let them go, bringing your attention back to the inhales and the exhales.

Begin to inhale and exhale deeply through the nose.

On each inhale, fill the belly up with your breath. Expand the belly with air like a balloon.

On each exhale, expel all the air out from the belly through your nose. Draw your navel back towards your spine to make sure that the belly is empty of air.

Repeat this deep belly breathing for about five breaths.

Step Two

Step two
On the next inhale, fill the belly up with air. Then when the belly is full, draw in a little more breath and let that air expand into the rib cage causing the ribs to widen apart.

On the exhale, let the air go first from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together, and then from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

Repeat this deep breathing into the belly and rib cage for about five breaths.

Step Three

Step three
On the next inhale, fill the belly and rib cage up with air. Then sip in just a little more air and let it fill the upper chest, all the way up to the collarbone, causing the area around the heart, expand and rise.

On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, allowing the heart center (yoga term) to sink back down, then from the rib cage, letting the ribs slide closer together. Finally, let the air go from the belly, drawing the navel back towards the spine.

Continue at your own pace, eventually coming to let the three steps of the breath happen smoothly without pausing.

Continue for about 10 breaths.

Remember not to force your lungs into overcapacity, they should feel comfortable, not like they are going to burst.Your breath should come in and out smoothly

I am not a doctor & have no qualifications, this advice is based purely on experience.
Please if you need help, contact a bereavement charity or speak to your GP.

Helen x

Many people find that keeping a gratitude journal allows them to remind themselves of happier and more positive times.

Memories Box recommends Wonderful Days Journal, click below for details;

Lena Henderson is a mindfulness & mindset mentor for children and parents, please take a look at her website, link below;