Don’t take that deep breath, warns Tess

Physiotherapist and author Tess Graham… “It’s never good for you to breathe more than you should because it tips people over who are already on the edge.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

PSYCHOLOGISTS, yoga teachers and meditation coaches may tell their clients to “take a deep breath”, but Griffith’s physiotherapist and author Tess Graham, 63, says deep breathing is creating more problems than good.

Her latest book “Relief from Anxiety and Panic: by changing how you breathe” debunks the deep breathing myth and instead retrains people how to breathe “physiologically normal”.  

“I’ve lost count of the times people have told me they have quit yoga or pilates because it’s caused dizziness or a panic attack or an asthma attack,” Tess says.

“It’s never good for you to breathe more than you should because it tips people over who are already on the edge [such as people with anxiety].”

Tess says this is because people with anxiety are breathing twice the volume of air in a minute than the average person.

“Research shows that an over-breathing pattern is characteristic in people with anxiety disorders,” she says.

“The dizziness, light-headedness and confusion classically seen during panic attacks are consistent with low brain oxygen caused by over-breathing.

“A normal breath size is 500ml, that’s the size breath that we should take 10 times a minute.

“And it’s really, really simple. Breathing is the most primary thing we do that affects how our body functions.”

Even though “physiologically abnormal” breathing is a major and consistent contributor to anxiety disorders, Tess says it’s often unobserved or disregarded in medical management.

“The way you breathe affects your concentration of blood gases, which affects your blood chemistry, which affects every function of your body,” she says.

“Breathing retraining is a science-based, simple, practical, and easy-to-do process that has been used successfully by thousands of people to get rapid, profound and lasting relief from anxiety and other breathing-related conditions.”

Tess originally came across “breathing retraining” more than 25 years ago after watching two of her three children suffer from asthma.

For seven years she looked for a solution before finally finding something that gave them relief.

Tess says they soon became robust, healthy and symptom free, without requiring medication.

She then realised the broad method of breathing retraining would not only help people with asthma, but also people with anxiety, sleep disorders, nasal problems, breathlessness and general wellbeing.

Inspired by what she had found, Tess became accredited in breathing retraining and then established Australia’s first dedicated breathing clinic in Canberra, in 1993.

While no longer seeing clients, Tess wrote the book following requests from former clients and also she wanted to get the information published because there are few people teaching it.

Psychologists teach people skills to bring them out of a panic attack, but Tess says if people learn to breathe correctly they’ll never have a panic attack again.

“This book teaches you to breathe the way calm people do,” she says.

“I want this knowledge about breathing to be out there so people understand what normal breathing looks like.

“Breathing should be through the nose all day and all night, it’s silent and it’s regular in rhythm.

“Breathing shouldn’t be interrupted by sighing, or yawning or clearing of the throat.

“If you can fix the breathing then the anxiety calms down.”

“Relief from Anxiety and Panic: by changing how you breathe” will be launched at Paperchain, 34 Franklin Street, Manuka, October 11, from 5.45pm. RSVP to 6295 6723. The book is available at $29.99 from


One Response to “Don’t take that deep breath, warns Tess”

  1. October 6, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

    This is a gross generalization! there are many breathing Technics that do relax anxiety you just need to find what works best for you. Deep Breathing works for me !

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