Breathing exercises are a powerful tool for training the lungs and finding inner peace. In this article, we will cover the most common breathing techniques for different purposes.
Why you need breathing exercises:
- Breathing exercises can help you relieve stress and become more centered.
- Some of the most effective breathing exercises include deep breathing, breathing with your lips pressed together, and the 4-7-8 method.
- Breathing practices improve attention, help you deal with anxiety and insomnia.
- Breathing exercises are worth practicing 1-2 times a day or more often if you have high anxiety.
- Breathing practices have a positive impact not only in the here and now, but also in the future – they reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality and help with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Whether your goal is to relieve symptoms or to find peace and tranquility, any of the nine breathing techniques on offer will help you do just that. Each of them is doable at home, requires no special equipment and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Deep belly breathing
Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a simple and safe exercise. It teaches proper breathing using the diaphragm rather than the pectoral muscles. The deeper, slower breaths taken with diaphragmatic breathing have been scientifically proven to help improve attention and reduce stress.
Hint: with proper diaphragmatic breathing, the shoulders remain stationary, the movements are at the level of the abdomen – inward and outward.
- Find a comfortable position, sitting or standing.
- Place one hand on the abdomen, just below the ribs, the other hand on the chest.
- Inhale deeply with your nose, pressing your hand against your abdomen.
- Exhale with compressed lips, as if blowing out a candle.
- With your hand push all the air out of your abdomen.
- Repeat from 3 to 10 times.
The 4-7-8 technique, also known as “relaxation breathing,” reduces stress and anxiety and helps you fall asleep quickly, says Tricia Smith, a breath coach, sports chiropractor and founder of Expand Your Human – lifestyle medicine. Anyone experiencing anxiety or just wanting to regain their sanity should try this technique.
Throughout the exercise, keep your tongue on your palate behind your upper teeth and exhale through your compressed lips. This will slow down the exhale and you can easily make it longer than the inhale.
Smith recommends performing the 4-7-8 technique as follows:
- Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath at the peak of the inhale for 7 counts.
- Exhale through compressed lips for 8 counts.
- Repeat this cycle up to 4 times, twice a day.
Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof exercise focuses on longer deep breath hold than most other breathing practices.
According to Smith, prolonged breath-holding enhances the body’s defensive response to stress, which in turn increases resistance to adverse conditions from the outside. Using this technique, Wim Hof was able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and stand, covered in ice cubes, for almost two hours. Wim Hof’s method will be useful to everyone, and especially to those who want to increase their body’s physical endurance.
Warning: on Wim Hof’s website there is a warning about the potential risk of fainting due to the intensity of the exercise. As such, this exercise should only be performed sitting or lying down in a safe environment.
Smith, a Wim Hof instructor, describes the following breathing technique:
- Take 30-40 deep breaths.
- Take one last breath as deep as you can, and then exhale through an open mouth.
- Hold this exhalation as long as you can, the length of the hold will depend on your fitness level.
- Take another deep restorative breath.
Lion breathing probably gets its name from the wide-open mouth, tongue out and the sigh that resembles a lion’s yawn.
This practice trains the vocal cords more than other breathing exercises and for this reason is ideal for singers and people with speech impediments.
According to Sandy Abrams, a breathing teacher and author of Breathe To Succeed, the lion’s breath is practiced as follows:
- Stand or sit in a safe place and close your eyes.
- Look inside yourself and visualize the emotional negativity you would like to get rid of.
- Take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nose.
- As you exhale, stick out your tongue, bulge your eyes and sigh loudly with a “haa” sound.
- Repeat the exercise one to three times a day.
Although each of the above exercises differs in technique, they all allow you to direct your full attention to your breathing. This helps to eliminate anxiety, reduce stress levels and improve your overall health.