Help Save Yourself and Your Loved Ones: Breathwork and COVID-19

by Dr. Lorrie Fisher

Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 with Breathing Exercises

Someone shouts “Quick! Hold your breath!”, what’s the first thing you do? Inhale. Right?

Take a big gulp of air. Then hold. It’s pure instinct. This is your body’s way of helping you have “enough” breath to hold it longer. The big gulp of air is designed for one thing — to keep you safe.

But now, with the new Coronavirus, the situation is different.  What is usually safe, is now dangerous. We don’t want any big gulp of virus-filled air! This is the reason that ways to slow the spread of the virus are focused on social distancing and face covering. Both are important. Consciously stay about 6 feet away from others and wear a mask or face covering.

The US National Centers for Disease Control (the CDC) posts, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity —for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing— even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

You can see that in this COVID-19 world, additional risk comes from taking the instinctive big gulp of air when you are surprised. Your natural instinct works against you. Now, to be safer, we want to mentally prepare, and even physically rehearse, the skill of a BRIEF breath-hold (BBH) — without inhaling first. You can use this power of breath control so that the virus can’t find your lungs!


Breathing Practices for Coronavirus Protection

Practice #1:

Stand with your back to a wall and exhale completely. Quietly relax your shoulders and close your mouth. Walk 6 large paces. Inhale through your nose and breath normally.

Practice #2:

Train with someone, or with your whole family, to learn to respond to the unexpected:

  1. Have someone be “the risky situation.”  It’s this person’s role to shout “NOW” from time to time – with no warning.  Just as someone might cough or come too close with no warning.
  2. On the command (“NOW”) everyone engages in BBH: Wherever their breathing may be in the breath cycle, everyone immediately drops their shoulders, closes their mouth. and STOPS their breath cycle wherever it is, then walks away — about 6 big paces.
  3. Then everyone resumes normal breathing. (6 big paces are about how far a virus from a strong cough can travel.)


Practice #3:

This is both a way to practice, and a way to release anxiety.

Most people inhale and exhale with no pauses.  You can develop the skill of breath control like this:

  1. Sit comfortably. Pay attention to your inner voice as you count mentally.
  2. Inhale (through your nose if you can) for a count of 4.
  3. Drop your shoulders, close your mouth, and rest for 3.
  4. Exhale for a count of 4.
  5. Drop your shoulders, close your mouth, and rest for 3.

Most people find the rest after exhaling more difficult at first.  It’s okay to start with a shorter rest. Even counting to 1 or 2 is a success. Take time to show yourself that it’s strange but not really difficult — after all, people can hold their breath underwater for minutes! You will soon learn that you don’t need to put so much effort and pressure into breathing. Sometimes it helps to switch senses during the hold, just like you do with other breathing exercises. Pay attention to the sounds around you. Or remember a pleasant sound. I like to recall the sound of a gentle rain.

Eventually, you may be able to use these relaxed pauses in your breath cycle to feel quiet and meditative.  To allow healing and more beneficial thoughts and feelings.  Breathing slower and focusing on your breath cycle is known to have many mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. Even more important, as the world seems out of control, learning breath control is a very deep and personal way of exerting control both over yourself and any situation you may come to face.

You can begin to use this life-saving BRIEF breath hold today.  Right now. Plan to practice if someone sneezes or coughs near you. Plan to practice when anyone ‘violates’ your social distancing space. Breath control will quickly become automatic. You can keep the virus out of your body by using the power of BRIEF breath control to safely move to cleaner air before you accept your next breath.

Dr. Lorrie Fisher

Dr. Lorrie Fisher is a PhD Psychophysiologist (literally, a doctor of mind-body integration). She specializes in recovery from problems with trauma, anxiety, attention, and grief.  Dr. Fisher resides in Southern California, but provides holistic telemedicine solutions through online conversational hypnotherapy as well as remote neurofeedback and biofeedback. Learn more at

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