Breathing is a natural and involuntary process that keeps us alive, but did you know that you can also use it to improve your overall health and well-being?
By practicing certain breathing techniques, you can reduce stress, anxiety, and even enhance mental clarity and physical performance.
In this article, we will introduce you to 10 breathing techniques that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to experience the numerous benefits of conscious breathing.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner, these techniques can help you feel better, sleep better, and live a healthier life. So let’s take a deep breath and get started!
Benefits of using breathing techniques
Cortisol is the “stress hormone” released by the brain in response to stress and anxiety. Deep breathing lowers heart rate, increases blood oxygen levels, and sends a calming message to the brain. The “feel good” hormone, endorphin, is increased by deep breathing as well.
Dr. Lin emphasizes that breathing exercises should be viewed as a supplemental treatment. “Deep breathing should not substitute any of the other medicines or procedures your doctor suggests,” she explains. To rephrase: breathing exercises are not an alternative treatment.
There are a number of health concerns that may benefit from practicing deep breathing techniques, according to the research. Here are a few cases in point.
- Reduce Blood Pressure: Complementary Therapy Medicine reported an analysis of 17 research including 1,165 participants that found slow breathing exercises resulted in minor reductions in blood pressure. The study’s authors came to the conclusion that breathing exercises could be an effective alternative to medication for persons with prehypertension or low-risk hypertension who are hesitant to start taking drugs.
- Decrease Anxiety: Many professionals, including psychologists, advocate the use of deep breathing exercises as a quick and effective treatment for anxious feelings and racing thoughts. As you breathe deeply, your heart rate drops, more oxygen enters your bloodstream, and your brain receives the message to relax. The stress hormone cortisol is reduced and the feel-good hormone endorphins are released.
- Better Night Sleep: Taking slow, deep, long breaths can tell your body to clean itself out and make you feel calm again, which can help you sleep better. People with insomnia are often told to do breathing exercises and meditate before bed to get a good night’s sleep.
- Healthy Digestion: When we take deep breaths, we get more oxygen to all the parts of our bodies, including our digestive system, which helps it work better. Because deep breathing increases blood flow, it also moves your intestines, which helps your digestion as a whole. Deep breathing also calms the nervous system, which in turn makes digestion work better.
Breathing exercises provide various health benefits and nearly no negative effects. Once you’ve learned the procedure, they’re simple to perform and don’t necessitate close supervision from professionals. Regular practice of breathing exercises is all that is necessary to enjoy their health benefits.
There are many ways or exercises to do this, but here are some. In addition, they are all repetitive, which will also help you get into a meditative state.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
The diaphragm is a muscle located in the abdomen that is targeted by the breathing method known as diaphragmatic breathing. The term “belly breathing” or “abdominal breathing” is occasionally used to describe this technique. You may assist your body breathe more efficiently by “training” your diaphragm to relax and allow more air into your lungs.
The fundamentals of diaphragmatic breathing are outlined here. While you’re just getting started, you might find it best to practice while lying flat on your bed or the floor.
- Find a level, comfortable spot to sit or lie down.
- Let your shoulders drop and move back from your ears to promote relaxation.
- Please place your hands on your chest and your stomach.
- Gently inhale through your nose until you can take in no more air.
- Inhale deeply through your nostrils and feel the air fill your lungs and stomach, pushing outward at the sides of your waist. There isn’t much movement in your chest.
- Make a poached face like you’re trying to drink out of a straw. Keep your mouth closed for four seconds while you exhale to feel your abdominal muscles tighten.
- For optimal results, do this multiple times.
2. Equal breathing(Sama Vritti Pranayama)
One of the key benefits of pranayama is that it helps bring the prana (life force energy) coursing through the nadis (energy channels) of the body into a state of harmony and balance. This four-step breathing method is used to relax the body and mind, therefore relieving stress and anxiety. It is possible to boost deep breathing and oxygen intake by focusing on using the diaphragm consciously.
Sama Vritti has additional benefits, including a lowered heart rate, more oxygen to the brain, and a lessened sense of worry.
- Put some padding under your seat if you need it and sit in an easy pose with your legs crossed. It’s best to sit on the floor, but lying flat on your back will do in a pinch.
- You can start by just closing your eyes and becoming aware of your natural breathing without altering it. Take a deep breath and count to five.
- The next time you take a deep breath, try counting to four as you do so. Pausing at the peak of an inhale allows time for reflection.
- Also, when you let out each breath, count to four. Just let yourself be empty for a second. Repeat the four-count inhalation. Keep on in this fashion. You’ll be doing an activity where you’ll need to regulate the length of your breaths by matching the inhale and exhale cycles.
- You can try this with a range of other counting numbers; just keep in mind that your inhale and exhale must be exactly the same length.
- Keep doing this for a few minutes.
3. Alternate nostril breathing
Yoga isn’t the only practice that can benefit from breathing through both nostrils at once. It is commonly applied in mindfulness and relaxation practices for its calming effects on both the mind and the body.
Focused on breathing in and out of only one nostril at a time, alternate-nostril breathing is exactly what it sounds like. Attentional control of breathing is the foundation of alternate-nostril breathing. There are numerous psychological and physiological advantages to breathing in this way.
- Sit on the floor and sit up straight with your back supported and your shoulders untense.
- Put the down-pointing points of your right index and middle fingers in between your eyebrows. For those without index fingers, any other finger, device, or body part that helps to block up one nostril will do.
- Put your head down and shut your eyes.
- You should rest the tips of your right ring and little finger on your left nose.
- Hold the end of your right thumb against your nostril.
- Press your thumb over your right nostril to seal it, and exhale slowly and gently through your left nostril.
- Inhale slowly via your left nostril.
- Put the ring and little finger of the right hand over the left nostril to seal it.
- Relax and inhale slowly through your right nostril.
- Take a slow, deep breath out of your right nostril.
- And repeat.
4. 4-7-8 breathing
Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor trained at Harvard and the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique for achieving a state of profound relaxation. Many people find that counting to ten helps them relax and breathe more steadily, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. More specifically, you should inhale for four, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight.
- Find a place to sit where you can be comfortable and not be bothered.
- Put your tongue gently against the back of your top teeth.
- Use your open mouth to let out all of the air around your tongue.
- Close your mouth, count to four, and then breathe in through your nose.
- Now, hold your breath and count to seven.
- Last, let out your breath through your mouth for eight counts. Make a “whoosh” sound when you let out your breath. When you’ve let all the air out, it should feel like none of it is left.
- Repeat the steps above for a total of four cycles.
5. Box breathing
Box breathing, which is also called square breathing, is a way to take deep breaths that can help you slow down your breathing. It works because as you count to four, your mind is taken away, your nervous system is calmed, and your body’s stress level goes down.
Box breathing is a simple but powerful way to relax that can help you get back to a calmer way of breathing. It can clear and calm your mind, which can help you concentrate better.
- Slowly let all the air out of your lungs as you breathe out.
- Slowly count to four in your head as you breathe in through your nose.
- Think about how the air feels as it goes into your lungs and stomach.
- Hold your breath until you hear the number four.
- Let out another four counts of air.
- Hold your breath for another four counts.
- Do this three to four times.
6. Lion’s breath(Pranayama)
Lion’s breath is a type of pranayama, which is a yogic breathing exercise. This method is called “lion’s breath” because when you do it, your body looks like a sitting lion. (In Sanskrit, simha means “lion.”) . In the yogic tradition, lion’s breath is thought to help people strengthen their lungs and balance or clear their throat chakras. It’s also a way to get more energy, and it’s often done before a yoga practice that involves moving around.
- Find a place to sit that is comfortable.
- Lean forward a little and put your hands on your knees or the floor to keep yourself steady.
- As far as you can, spread your fingers.
- Use your nose to breathe in.
- Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and pull it down toward your chin.
- Forcefully let out your breath, letting it travel across the root of your tongue.
- Make a “ha” sound that comes from your stomach as you let out your breath.
- Just take a few normal breaths.
- Lion’s breath can be done up to 7 times.
- The last step is to take deep breaths for 1 to 3 minutes.
7. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation, also called Jacobson’s relaxation technique, is one way to ease muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a type of therapy in which you tighten and relax each group of muscles in a certain order.The goal is to get your muscles to relax and to help you learn what that tension feels like.
- First, lie down or sit down. Relax your entire body. Take 5 slow, deep breaths.
- Raise your feet up. Grab, and then let go. Pull down on your toes. Grab, and then let go.
- Next, tighten your calves, and then let go.
- Bring your knees closer together. Grab, and then let go.
- Pull your thighs together. Grab, and then let go.
- Hold your hands tight. Wait, and then let go.
- Pull your arms tight. Grab, and then let go.
- Squeeze your buttocks. Wait, and then let go.
- Contract your abdominal muscles.
- Wait, and then let go.
- Take a breath in and pull your chest in.
- Hold, then let go as you breathe out.
- Raise your shoulders as high as you can.
- Wait, and then let go.
- Put your lips close. Hold on, and then let go.
- Largen your mouth. Grab, and then let go.
- Shut your eyes really tight. Pause, and then let go.
- Make your eyebrows go up. Hold on, and then let go.
8. Visualization breathing
Visualization breathing is a powerful breath technique that can promote mental clarity, and boost self-confidence. By combining deep breathing with guided imagery, this technique can help to create a sense of calm and relaxation in the mind and body.
- Just like you would for regular meditation, make sure you are comfortable.
- Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths to calm down.
- Think about the color you picked.
- Keep breathing and think about what that color means to you as you hold it in your mind.
- Imagine that the color you want is slowly washing over your whole body as you breathe in.
- Keep breathing in and out as you imagine the color filling your whole body, from your fingers to your toes.
- Every time you breathe out, picture any negative feelings leaving your body and being replaced by your chosen color.
- You can keep visualizing for as long as you want. After just a minute or two, you might feel lighter and calmer.
9. Humming bee breath(Bhramari Pranayama)
Humming Bee Breath (Bhramari Pranayama) is a calming breath technique that can reduce stress and anxiety, improve concentration and memory, and alleviate migraines and headaches.
By creating a soft humming sound during exhalation, this technique helps to regulate breathing patterns and promotes relaxation.
- Close your eyes and sit up straight in a quiet corner with good airflow. Keep your face softly smiling.
- Close your eyes for a little while. Notice how your body feels and how quiet you feel inside.
- Put the tips of your fingers on your ears. Between your cheek and ear is a piece of cartilage. Put the tips of your fingers on the cartilage.
- Take a deep breath in, and as you let it out, gently press the cartilage. You can keep the cartilage pressed or move it in and out with your fingers while making a loud buzzing sound like a bee.
- You can also make a low-pitched sound, but for the best results, you should make a high-pitched sound.
- Again, take a deep breath in, and do this 3–4 times.
10. 3-part breath(Dirgha Pranayama)
The 3-Part Breath Technique (Dirgha Pranayama) is a powerful breath technique that promotes deep relaxation, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves overall lung function. By engaging the full capacity of the lungs, this breath technique increases oxygen intake, which can boost energy levels and improve mental clarity.
- The best way to unwind is to close your eyes and lay flat on your back. Your legs can stay outstretched if that feels good, or you can bend your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet to the mat if that’s more cozy.
- To get started, just watch as your breath comes in and out of you normally. You should avoid participating in the mental chatter if it keeps you from focusing.
- Breathe in and out slowly and deeply through your nose.
- Feel the breath fill the stomach with each inhale. Fill the stomach with air and blow it up like a balloon.
- You should let all the air out of your tummy with each breath. To ensure that your tummy is empty, pull your navel in towards your spine.
- Fill the lungs and stomach with air on the following inhale. When full, take another deep breath in and release it so that your ribs spread apart as the air fills your torso.
- For a proper exhale, you should release air from your chest first, allowing your ribs to move closer together, and then from your abdomen, bringing your belly button back in toward your spine.
- During roughly five breaths, concentrate on filling your abdomen and expanding your rib cage.
- Please inhale deeply and completely, filling your tummy and rib cage with air. Then, take a deep breath in and fill your lungs to the top of your head, allowing your heart area (called the heart center in yoga) to rise and open.
- Let the breath leave the upper chest first, letting the heart drop back down as you exhale, and then the rib cage as the ribs glide closer together. Finally, exhale through the mouth and nose, pulling the navel in toward the spine.
- Keep going at your own pace until you get to the point when the three breath phases occur naturally and without interruption.
- Keep going for the next ten breaths or so.
Breath techniques are important for better health. By practicing conscious breathing every day, we can reduce stress, improve mental clarity and physical performance, and enhance overall well-being.
Whether you’re new to breath techniques or an experienced practitioner, there are many techniques to explore and benefit from. So start incorporating these powerful techniques into your life today!