The Science of Deep Breathing and the Bliss of the Terssing High.

Terssing is an ancient, powerful, medical and spiritual practice. It has been used for thousands of years to calm our bodies and minds, help us sleep, guide relaxation and meditation, and overcome our most difficult urges. It’s history dates back to early Hinduism…



Hang on. That’s pranayama breathing. The terss just makes it easier. (And more fun, and more accessible. And makes it feel more like smoking. But let’s take this from the top, and get it right this time!)

The Four Steps of Deep Breathing

So. Pranayama is a special form of breathing, usually taught as part of yoga, meditation, or a similar health-inspired wellness class.[1] It can have anywhere from three to fifteen steps, depending on how you count.[2] And it really does have incredible health benefits, which we’ll get to in a second.

Terssing is a little simpler: you only need to learn four basic steps. Here’s how it works:

  1. Belly. Breath in deeply through your terss, expanding your diaphragm and letting your belly fill with air.
  2. Chest. Keep inhaling, drawing air in sharply and letting your ribs and chest expand.
  3. High. Pause. Hold. Feel the stretch through your torso, back, and shoulders, and enjoy the terssing high.
  4. Release. Let the breath out gradually, starting by letting your chest sink and ending by pulling your belly in toward your spine.

And repeat, for as long as you need. Terssing isn’t quite like pranayama—you don’t need to settle yourself, practice meditation techniques, or find a secluded spot.

It’s more like smoking. Do it on the fly, do the four-step breath just once or twice, if that’s all you need right then. Build your terssing habit however works best for you.

What’s important, though, is not to forget its power. There’s a reason using your terss feels so rewarding—well, more than one reason. Let’s take a look.

The Terssing High

One thing we know is true is that terssing, like other kinds of deep breathing, can provide a wonderful, relaxing, positive sensation as you hold your breath after the final inhale. We call it the terssing high, but it’s hardly our invention. It’s a natural part of how our bodies work.

That little moment of pause—of holding your breath—affects our brain in unique and powerful ways. The first big change is that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, a network of nerves that helps our body relax and calm down.[3] At the same time, our bodies start working to reduce our blood pressure and manage physical stress, “steadying the mind” and boosting self-regulation.[4]

That’s the primary effect: a wave of physical relaxation that many people experience as relief, or sometimes even as mild pleasure. (We’re not sure quite why that is, but some scientists think deep breathing might stimulate the release of beta endorphins—the same brain chemical responsible for producing the “runner’s high” and other positive feelings.[5]) Along with it come other effects, too, like the emotional calm that hits us as the deep breaths start to decrease activity in the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotion and memory.[6]

All together, those effects make of the terssing high. That might be reason enough to pick up a terss, but it’s hardly the end of the story. For one thing…

Deep Breathing and Cardiovascular Health

We’ve known for three decades that any consistent deep breathing exercise is fantastic for our hearts and lungs.[7] Lots of studies look at ex-smokers, people with asthma or allergies, or other people who sometimes have difficulty catching their breath.

The results are incredibly consistent. Even deep breathing for just a few times a day quickly makes your breathing stronger and more consistent—the air flows faster and it’s interrupted less often. Symptoms of asthma drop; people need their meds less regularly.[8] Blood pressure rises, and resting heart rate drops.[9]

Some more recent studies have started to dive into the “why,” and found that deep breathing helps reset the part of our nervous system (the parasympathetic branch) that helps us relax, stay calm, focus, and fall asleep.[10] Deep breathing, in other words, is extremely good for us.

It also has one more big benefit, one that’s especially valuable to smokers.

Deep Breathing and The Urge to Smoke

The science is clear: serious deep breathing helps us quit smoking. The most well-known study is pretty wild: one hundred dedicated smokers come into a lab after not touching a cigarette for 12 hours. Cravings are intense. Half of them watch an informative video about pranayama breathing. The other half actually learn it, from an expert.

Then they get tested. Questionnaires, interview questions, CO2 tests. The video group really want to smoke. The deep-breathing group…well, they wanted to smoke a lot less. About 20% less.[11]

The effect disappeared pretty quickly, in less than a day. But it's real, and it helps, for a bunch of reasons all at once: physical relaxation, reduced anxiety, distraction, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and strong stimulation of the brain region (the insula) that controls our need to breath.[12]

There have been a double handful of other high-quality studies. They’re all a little different, looking at different time-windows and different parts of quitting. But they all show some improvement, and the take-home message is clear: deep breathing really does help people quit.[13]

Terssing and Replacing

We wanted to take things even further. Deep breathing helps us stop smoking, and the terss helps with deep breathing—it encourages the multi-stage technique of pranayama, and it helps us get that high during the pause in the middle of each breath. But deep breathing on its own is just another healthy habit to develop, something we have to learn, practice, and add to our days.

Terssing isn’t like that. The Terss is just the right size, shape, weight, and texture to take the place of cigarettes, or your vape, or your pipe or cigar. The Terss was designed, not to help you quit smoking, but to replace smoking in your life, your habits, and your daily routines. It feels like a cigarette in your fingers or against your lips, it’s small, light, and easy to carry. In short: a Terss is the perfect tool to pull out any time you’re craving a smoke.

And that means that you won’t be trying to ditch some habits and build new ones. You’ll be relying on the same habits—when to smoke, where to smoke, with whom—but you won’t be smoking. You’ll be enjoying the healthy, smoke-free, liberating feeling of the terssing high.

In more scientific terms, our goal was to help smokers handle the behavioral and psychological sides of their addiction. We can’t fix nicotine cravings (although deep breathing does help, as we discussed), but we can make sure that when you get the urge to pull out a cigarette, you have a solid, reliable way of satisfying it. You pull out your terss instead. The action is familiar, the setting is familiar, and the sensation is familiar. Over time, the deep breathing becomes familiar too. And just like that, you’ve replaced smoking with something new. Something better.

The Final Word

Terssing has the potential to be a game-changer in quitting process for hundreds of millions of people. It can support us all in finding the freedom and health we’ve wanted for years. It can reduce cravings, take the place of familiar habits, and introduce us to new sensations. 

It’s not a silver bullet, or a one-stop solution, but one thing is for sure.

It can help.


Acevedo, B. P., Pospos, S., & Lavretsky, H. (2016). The neural mechanisms of meditative practices: novel approaches for healthy aging. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports3(4), 328-339.

Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I—neurophysiologic model. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine11(1), 189-201.

Cooper, S., Oborne, J., Newton, S., Harrison, V., Coon, J. T., Lewis, S., & Tattersfield, A. (2003). Effect of two breathing exercises (Buteyko and pranayama) in asthma: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax, 58(8), 674-679.

Courtois, I., Gholamrezaei, A., Jafari, H., Lautenbacher, S., Van Diest, I., Van Oudenhove, L., & Vlaeyen, J. W. (2020). Respiratory hypoalgesia? The effect of slow deep breathing on electrocutaneous, thermal, and mechanical pain. The Journal of Pain21(5-6), 616-632.

Dai, C. L., & Sharma, M. (2014). Between inhale and exhale: Yoga as an intervention in smoking cessation. Journal of Evidence-based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 19(2), 144-149.

Dhungel, K. U., Malhotra, V., Sarkar, D., & Prajapati, R. (2008). Effect of alternate nostril breathing exercise on cardiorespiratory functions. Nepal Med Coll J, 10(1), 25-27.

Gard, T., Noggle, J. J., Park, C. L., Vago, D. R., & Wilson, A. (2014). Potential self-regulatory mechanisms of yoga for psychological health. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience8, 770.

Jha, R. K., & Li, H. P. (2017). Effects of alternate nostril breathing on quitting smoking. International Journal of Science Inventions Today, 6(4), 329-337.

Saoji, A. A., Raghavendra, B. R., & Manjunath, N. K. (2019). Effects of yogic breath regulation: A narrative review of scientific evidence. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 10(1), 50-58.

Shahab, L., Sarkar, B. K., & West, R. (2013). The acute effects of yogic breathing exercises on craving and withdrawal symptoms in abstaining smokers. Psychopharmacology, 225(4), 875-882.

Singh, V., Wisniewski, A., Britton, J., & Tattersfield, A. (1990). Effect of yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) on airway reactivity in subjects with asthma. The Lancet, 335(8702), 1381-1383.

Telles, S., & Singh, N. (2013). Science of the mind: ancient yoga texts and modern studies. Psychiatric Clinics36(1), 93-108.

Yusuf, A., Iswari, M. F., Sriyono, S., & Yunitasari, E. (2020). The effect of combination of spiritual deep breathing exercise therapy on pain and anxiety in postoperative nonpatological orthopedic fracture patients. EurAsian Journal of BioSciences14(1), 1625-1631.


[1] Saoji, Raghavendra, and Manjunath (2019).

[2] Shahab, Sarkar, and West (2013).

[3] Brown and Gerbarg (2005); Telles and Singh (2013).

[4] Courtois et al. (2020); Gard et al. (2014).

[5] Yusuf et al. (2020).

[6] Acevedo, Pospos, and Laretsky (2016).

[7] Cooper et al. (2003).

[8] Singh et al. (1990).

[9] Dunghel et al. (2008).

[10] Saoji, Raghavendra, and Manjunath (2019).

[11] Shahab, Sarkar, and West (2013).

[12] Jha and Li (2017); Saoji, Raghavendra, and Manjunath (2019); Shahab, Sarkar, and West (2013).

[13] Dai and Sharma (2014); Carim-Todd et al. (2013).







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