Breathing is essential for life, powers vocal communication, and connects mind and body. As Speech-Language Pathologists, we frequently train our clients in diaphragmatic breathing to improve voice, volume, and speech. We can also use breath control to manage stress, anxiety, and mood in both our clients and in ourselves. Given the importance and power of good breathing techniques, there must be an app for that, and there is!
The National Center for Telehealth & Technology has produced an app called "Breathe2Relax" to coach users through deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises, and they've made it available for iOS and Android devices for free. Emphasizing the power of the breath to relax the body and mind, this app offers calming music, beautiful images, and a soothing voice as it coaches users through adjustable inhalations and exhalations.
The app contains an animated video demonstration of how to lie or sit and breathe with the diaphragm under "Show Me How". The "Learn" button leads to information in written and video formats about stress and breathing. The "Personalize" button allows you to change the scenery, music, and inhale/exhale lengths. Other settings, such as the types of cues provided, are found in the "Setup" menu.
The most useful part of the app is accessed by pressing the "Breathe" button. A gentle female voice guides each breath for 8-16 cycles of deep inhalation and exhalation. The length of each phase of the breath can be adjusted during the exercise by pressing buttons to shorten or lengthen. A visual breath metronome shows each breath coming and going. There's an option to rate your stress before and after each breathing exercise, but if stress-reduction is not the focus of your training, this step can be skipped. If you do opt to rate your stress, results are available to track your progress after multiple sessions.
I can't offer much criticism of this free app. I've always hated coaching breathing since I find it hard to demonstrate and explain at the same time. Now I can set up the app, give feedback and demonstration as needed, and allow the app to track the repetitions and coach each breath. I do find the home screen of the app a bit confusing - some of the buttons do essentially the same thing ("personalize" and "setup" are redundant, as are "show me how" and "learn"). The videos do not work without Internet connectivity, but I do appreciate that this keeps the app size relatively small.
All in all, given the price, availability for both iOS and Android, and quality content, you can't go wrong giving this app a download. Your clients may find it useful for home practice of breathing to improve their speech, or you may find it helps you decompress after a stressful day of work!