How One Song Can Help Initiate Your Body’s Relaxation Response

Where intention goes, the breath flows

In a few minutes, you’ll know how to perform Rhythmic Breathing, whether in silence, or to music. If you’re wondering why you’d do that, ask yourself if you’d like any of the following:

  • Synching of heart rhythm, respiration, and blood pressure.
  • Knowledge of how to activate Stress Response and Relaxation Response at will.
  • Increase relaxation.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Become more mindful.
  • Improve energy.
  • Improve rapport with others and in groups.
  • Improve social bond with others.
  • Enhance Focus.
  • Calm Emotion.

Interested? Read on.


What is rhythmic breathing? Rhythmic breathing, breathing in beats, is the act of breathing in a specific cadence. For instance, one might perform a 1:1 rhythmic breathing pattern by taking a 4-second inhale with a 4-second exhale.

Rhythmic breathing improves your “coherence”, or the syncing of your heart rhythm, respiratory system, and blood-pressure rhythm.

We can measure coherence with Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

When you inhale, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), enhancing your stress / fight-or-flight response.

When you exhale, you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), enhancing your relaxation / rest-and-digest response.

Why is this important? You can immediately change your mental state by changing how you breathe. This could improve focus, attention, relaxation, etc. on demand.

Prove It.

Scientists and athletes use Heart Rate Variability to measure the distance (in time) between one heart beat and the next. In addition to that, HRV tells us how our SNS and PNS activation changes from breath to breath.

HRV is constantly changing, and the more it changes, the more adaptive you are to stress. The more adaptive you are, the more power you have over your mental state in times of stress.

Your HRV can be unpredictable from one minute to the next.

Rhythmic Breathing (RB) creates consistent variance in heart rate and SNS/PNS activation with each breath. This results in “coherence”, or the syncing of your heart rhythm, respiratory system, blood-pressure rhythm, and balancing your sympathetic / parasympathetic nervous system.

Leading Us to Collective Coherence

Coherence results in improved composure, energy, clear thinking, enhanced immune function, and hormonal balance.

We know that rhythmic breathing creates coherence in the body.

HeartMath scientists performed a study called “Achieving Collective Coherence”. They found that Rhythmic Breathing in groups led to group or “collective coherence”: a synchronization of heart rhythms between individuals.

This led to increased rapport and a stronger bond between members of the group.

They also found that one’s internal coherence can be improved simply by being in the presence of another person who has high coherence. But if that whole “good vibrations” thing is too woo-woo for you, you can just ignore this part.

Okay, So How Do I Do It?

  1. Use an Inhale to Exhale ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. (Inhaling for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds or inhaling for 4 seconds, exhaling for 8 seconds).
    1. Tip: The longer your exhale, the more you stimulate your PNS Relaxation Response.
  2. Smooth breathing, whether through the mouth or through the nose, without any stops and starts.Tip: Nasal breathing will keep your nasal passages and lungs happy.
  3. Attune to positive emotions. When the mind is clouded, stressed, anxious, or afraid, or internal rhythms fall out of sync. It’s been said that gratitude and fear cannot occur concurrently in the brain.Tip: Set a timer. Take 1 minute to think of things which you are grateful for. Write those things down, and go about your day.

How Long Should I Breathe For?

To attain coherence, you should strive for 5-6 breaths per minute, which ends up being about a 5 second inhale and exhale.

If you need to relax, you might consider taking a moment to double your exhalation (inhaling for 4 seconds, exhaling for 8 seconds), as the longer exhalation stimulates your PNS, initiating relaxation response. This also has been shown to be the optimal ratio for increasing relaxation, stress reduction, mindfulness, and positivity.

By directing focused and conscious effort to our breath, we also stimulate the cerebral cortex, enhancing our focus and calming our emotions.

How Does One Song Help Me Relax?

Throw on your headphones and turn on some 60 BPM music. Breathe in beats (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out) with it until the song is over.

Conclude with a long exhalation breath hold, what yogis call Rechaka Kumbhaka, to ensure your systems are in balance. (If you would like more on this, let me know!)

Then, go about your day. You can thank me later.


Knowledge is power, but change doesn’t happen without action.

By taking a few minutes to do some Rhythmic Breathing today, you could end up with the following benefits:

  • Synching of heart rhythm, respiration, and blood pressure.
  • Balance of your central nervous system.
  • Knowledge of how to activate Stress Response and Relaxation Response at will.
  • Increase relaxation.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Become more mindful.
  • Improve energy.
  • Improve rapport with others and in groups.
  • Improve social bond with others.
  • Enhance Focus.
  • Calm Emotion.

Lastly, I’m not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I’m just a nerd who likes to learn, and I figured I’d be productive by sharing that knowledge with you.

I’m a nerd, I know.

I learn it and try it so you don’t have to.

-RB3

ps. If there’s anything you’re curious about, and don’t have the time, patience, or know-how to learn about it, let me know. I’ll be sure to post on it if it’s worth-while, or I’ll answer you directly!

If you’re still reading and want more, please subscribe to my blog. You can also follow my daily doings on Instagram.com/robertbilljr, or find me at Life Time – Schaumburg.

Questions? Interested in private personal training, nutrition counseling, or meditation? Shoot me a text at 847.807.5361. Don’t be shy.

Photo-cred to tinydancingyogi, my lovely wife.

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