Take a moment and pay attention to how breathing makes you feel. Every time you are relaxed you can breathe with ease. But, the moment stress, lack of energy, or insufficient sleep kick in, that’s when breathing becomes irregular.
Stress, for example, can make breathing harder. This can be a problem for anyone with lung disease or asthma. And, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, stress, anxiety, and depression go hand-in-hand. The prevalence of stress in 5 different studies was 29.6%. Anxiety was 31.9% in 17 studies, and depression at 33.7% in 14 studies.
Using proper breathing techniques can get your breathing back on track. If you want to work on your breathing, then you are in the right place. Here, you can learn more about different types of breathing exercises that offer the body a range of benefits.
5 Breathing Exercises That Have a Lot to Bring to the Table
Breathing comes naturally. When you take a breath, the blood cells obtain the necessary amount of oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Improper breathing upsets the carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, which adds more fuel to the fire. Particularly with panic attacks, anxiety, and stress. Any kind of emotional or physical disturbance could set your breathing awry. But, the moment you feel your breathing needs a revamp, that’s when doing a breathing exercise can help. The techniques listed below can show you the ropes.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly Breathing)
Anytime you feel like stress is pushing your buttons, do diaphragmatic breathing. A study shows that diaphragmatic breathing has the potential to boost cognitive performance and curb negative physiological and subjective consequences of stress in healthy adults.
So, if you are looking for breathing techniques for anxiety and stress, then diaphragmatic breathing can be of use. Also known as belly breathing, this technique aims to boost pulmonary ventilation and it’s the most widely studied and used exercise in clinical practice.
Besides, it makes for one of the most practical asthma breathing techniques. Studies show that diaphragmatic breathing could have some positive effects on the quality of life, lung function, and hyperventilation symptoms. But, more research is necessary to evaluate the full impact of breathing exercises on asthma.
How to do:
- Take a comfortable position (either take a seat or lie down).
- Place one hand on the chest, and the other hand on the belly under the ribs.
- Inhale through the nose. You will feel the belly pushing the hand upwards. But, the chest shouldn’t move.
- Exhale through pursed lips (as though you are trying to whistle). The hand on the belly will start going downwards. Use the hand to push the remaining air out.
- Repeat 3-10 times. Don’t rush and take it slow.
2. Equal Time Breathing
Breathing goes side by side with mental functions. It is a key component in many meditative practices and can help you reach a meditative state of mind. When you focus on the frequency and deepness of the breaths, you can gain control of the pulmonary ventilation.
With equal time breathing, you can match the frequency and control how long you are breathing in and breathing out. Feel free to increase the number of counts, you breathe in and breathe out to 10 counts.
How to do:
- Take a comfortable position on a chair or the floor.
- Count to 5 as you are inhaling through the nose.
- Count to 5 as you are exhaling through the nose.
- Repeat a couple of times.
3. Deep Focus Breathing With Mental Imagery
If you are doing any intensive physical activities and are prone to psychological stress, then you can use a combination of deep breathing and mental imagery. A 2021 report evaluated the impact of this type of breathing. Scientists studied 40 firefighters.
Based on the results, mental imagery with deep breathing promoted heart rate recovery and helped volunteers to maintain better physical fitness. For those looking for breathing techniques for sleep, guided imagery breathing can also come in handy.
2020 reports show that breathing relaxation along with guided imagery improved the sleep quality in elderly patients who had abdominal surgery. This makes it one of the most practical deep breathing techniques to use on a regular basis.
How to do:
- Close your eyes.
- Take a couple of deep big breaths.
- As you inhale, think of a picture, phrase, or a word that makes you feel at ease. Like imagining the air is bringing you a sense of calm as it extends through the entire body.
- As you exhale, visualize the air leaving the body. Picture the stress and tension melting away.
- Repeat for 10-20 min.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Breathing
If you are interested in different types of breathing exercises, then it makes sense to try progressive muscle relaxation. Research shows that it can help promote relaxation, overall well-being, and decrease stress.
It can be effective at boosting relaxation states on both physiological and psychological levels. With an option such as this, you will be inhaling as you tense a muscle group, and you will exhale as you release the tension.
How to do:
- Take a comfortable position by lying down on the floor.
- Take a couple of deep breaths to get the body to relax.
- Inhale. Tense the muscles of the feet.
- Exhale. Let go of the tension in the feet.
- Inhale. Tense the calf muscles.
- Exhale. Let go of the tension in the calves.
- Work on tensing each muscle group, by working your way up. That includes the fingers, chest, belly, legs, shoulders, neck, face, and arms.
5. Morning Breathing
When dealing with stiff muscles or slightly clogged airways, it can be a good idea to try breathing techniques first thing at dawn. The reason why many people find morning breathing exercises helpful is because it helps improve their awareness of unhealthy and shallow breathing patterns.
If you are more aware, then you can notice breathing irregularities and start working on them as soon as they create a problem. Eventually, you will start feeling less stressed and calmer. With consistent or regular practice, you can fix your default breathing patterns and give the body that much-needed break.
How to do:
- Stand upright. Then slightly bend the knees and body from the waist.
- Let the arms dangle loose near the floor.
- Take a deep and slow breath.
- Roll up slowly to get back to your starting position. But, remember to lift the head last.
- Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
- Breathe out as you bend the body again, in the same position.
You may not be thinking a lot about the way you are breathing. But, once you implement breathing exercises, you can notice a positive change. Regardless of the breathing technique you go for, you can still reap the benefits. That’s because breathing exercises can be tried right off the bat. They are easy to implement and quick to get used to.
To make the most of any breathing exercise, leave some time to do them at least a couple of times a week. Feel free to add them to your daily routine whenever you feel like it. These breathing practices are meant to help you in the long run. Talk to a doctor or a respiratory therapist if you feel any discomfort while doing them.