Get InformedVagus Nerve 3 Way Breath

Vagus Nerve: 3 Way Breath

25 June 2024

A great exercise for enhancing vagal tone and initiating the relaxation/parasympathetic response reducing feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.

Catherine Wells

Catherine Wells

Occupational Therapist

This is one of my favourite breathing techniques! You can do it discretely anytime, anyplace, anywhere. You will find me doing this in queues, at work or even when I am enjoying my morning cuppa. 

In this technique, you are fully inflating and emptying your lungs. To do this, we will focus on inhaling and exhaling out of three areas: 

  • the diaphragm
  • side/ribs
  • the chest

The great thing about this breathing technique is that the mind is kept focused because you have to think about the three steps. This means the mind is less likely to wander, so it gets a bit of a break from the stream of thoughts many of us experience.

It can take a bit of practice, as all new breathing techniques can. Try not overthink it too much, it is simply breathing with intention. 


To begin to practise this technique start slow and take it in steps.

First, try a few breaths into the tummy, and empty on the exhale, you have to relax your tummy muscles to allow for this. 

Then layer on the second component of breathing into the side ribs and reverse this on the exhale until this feels comfortable.

Then add the final component of the chest, keeping your shoulders relaxed. 

 Now you can put it all together!


On the inhale

  1. First breathe into the diaphragm allowing the tummy to expand
  2. then breathe into the sides of the rib cage, flaring the ribs out as you expand the sides of the lungs
  3. then finish off by breathing into the chest allowing it to lift up. 


On the exhale - do the reverse

  1. First allow the chest to fall
  2. then the sides of the rib cage move back in
  3. and finally the tummy moves back to where it started. 


Do this for 5 minutes or for as long as feels comfortable!

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