In our fast-paced modern society, we often find ourselves rushing from one task to the next, spending hours on end sitting in front of screens, and neglecting our physical and mental well-being. As a result, many of us suffer from a variety of health issues such as neck and back pain, insomnia, and stress, which we often accept as a part of our daily lives. However, taking just a few minutes each day to practice breathing exercises can do wonders for our overall health and well-being. This article will explore 10 breathing exercises that can help us alleviate these issues and improve our physical and mental health.
10 breathworks for your ultimate health
‘Breathe light’ is one of the most fundamental breath works that aims to eliminate the biochemical causes (chronic hyperventilation, reduced carbon dioxide levels in the blood) of dysfunctional breathing. This exercise is for improving oxygen uptake and reducing sensitivity to CO₂. It enables the blood vessels to open up and release more oxygen to the tissues and organs. ’Breathe light’ allows nitric oxide to accumulate in the nasal cavity and help sterilise the air, open the airways, and blood vessels in the lungs, resulting in better oxygen transfer to the blood. This exercise will provide you will all the immense benefits of nose breathing.
Note from Healthypedia
The exercise is suitable for everyone except those with serious health concerns or those in the first trimester of pregnancy.
1. Sit cross-legged on the floor or up straight in a chair or lie down on your back.
2. Imagine that you are being gently pulled upward from the crown of your head by a piece of string.
3. Put your hands on your chest and tummy, or in your lap.
4. Observe the way your breath enters and leaves your nose. As the air enters your nose, you will feel it getting slightly colder and it will leave your nose feeling slightly warmer.
5. Slow down your breaths as they enter and leave your nose. Calm, light, and quiet breathing is ideal.
6. You should feel barely any air entering or leaving your nostrils as you breathe. You should breathe so quietly that you don’t feel the fine hairs moving in your nostrils.
7. Your goal is to make yourself feel like you want to take in more air. In order to create air hunger, you should breathe less than when you started.
8. Air hunger is too strong if you feel stressed or lose control of your breathing. In this case, take a 20 or 30-second break and then begin again. It is normal to take a few breaks during the exercise at the beginning.
9. Practice the exercise for around four minutes.
2Breathing exercise ‘Achieve deeper sleep’
It is scientifically proven that techniques of slow, deep breathing in conjunction with sleep hygiene and relaxation therapies may be highly effective in initiating and maintaining sleep.
You can do this activity before going to bed. The subsequent exercise is a great method to alleviate breathing problems that occur during sleep. It also induces relaxation, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
1. One hand should be placed on the chest, while the other should be placed on the abdomen.
2. You should create a slight hunger for air by gently slowing down your breathing.
3. When you breathe in, slow down the speed at which air enters your nostrils.
4. Slowly and gently exhale.
5. In order to reach this goal, you need to breathe softly in a way that allows less air to enter your lungs by about 30%.
6. Having a tolerable feeling of air hunger indicates that you are doing it correctly.
7. If the air hunger is too high, take a 15-second break and start again.
8. Practise for about 15 minutes.
3Breathing exercise for balancing stress levels ‘Get out of your head’
Breathing exercises are an ace when it comes to relieving stress. They help to calm down, get rid of intrusive thoughts, balance heart rate and normalise blood pressure. This technique engages both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which are responsible for regulating stress and relaxation in the body. It also strengthens the respiratory muscles. It should be performed in a seated position or while laying down.
Please, note that this exercise is only appropriate for individuals who are in good health and not pregnant.
Step 1: Take a deep, fast breath in, followed by a deep, fast breath out through your nose. Fill your lungs with air and exhale fast. Take 20 full inhales and exhales.
Step 2: As you exhale, hold your breath until you experience a strong to medium air hunger.
Step 3: Breathe lightly with air hunger for three minutes. You should slow down your breathing. When you inhale, you should feel hardly any air entering your nose. The exhalation should be long, slow, and relaxed.
The exercise should be repeated two to three times from Step 1.
4Breathwork for cold days ‘Tum-mo breathing’
Tum-mo breathing is a technique based on slow breathing and breath holds, which is popularised by the Iceman, Wim Hof, and his Wim Hof Method. It has been proven to stimulate heat production in the body (thermogenesis), which is useful in colder climates or for the days when you feel cold.
1. Place your hands on your stomach and sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.
2. Keep your mind relaxed as much as you can.
3. Think of your stomach as a hollow balloon with a ball of fire inside. It is important to keep this visualization going throughout the meditation.
4. Lean backwards and expand the chest and torso as you inhale deeply through your nose. Think of the oxygen in your breath as fuel for a fire inside that grows and heats up.
5. As if blowing through a straw, exhale through your mouth. Feel the flame spreading heat through your body as you curl the spine forward.
6. Follow this pattern five times.
7. Hold your breath for as long as you can tolerate it, then breathe it out.
8. Repeat a few times.
5Diaphragmatic breathing ‘Exhale to improve diaphragm function’
The diaphragm is the main breathing muscle that serves important functions in the body, including postural support, regulating mood and optimal gas exchange. It’s crucial for the diaphragm to move freely during breathing to maintain healthy movement and support the spine and pelvis. When the diaphragm doesn’t move freely, it results in a rigid rib cage and shallow upper chest breathing.
1. Taking a deep breath, slowly exhale through your nose. Breathe gently without forcing it.
2. Try to squeeze the air out of your stomach as you exhale by gently sucking inward.
3. You should continue exhaling slowly until you have expelled all the remaining air.
4. Think about your diaphragm regaining its resting position as you exhale.
5. Let the inhalation happen naturally (do not force the inhalation)
6. Over the next 10 minutes, repeat several times.
This exercise is beneficial for improving the function of the diaphragm muscle, regardless of whether or not you are experiencing breathing difficulties, and can be practised at any time.
6Counting breathing exercise to boost your mood
Research indicates that breathing can affect one’s ability to recognise emotions in others and remember visual objects. Even passive nasal breathing can have a positive impact. When feeling down, engaging in breathing exercises that involve inhaling and exhaling while counting can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure, leading to an overall uplifted feeling.
1. You should sit up straight and count your breaths as you inhale and exhale. Counting aloud while breathing is hard, so use your fingers.
2. Breathe in for 5, breathe out for 5
3. Breathe in for 4, breathe out for 8
4. Breathe in for 4, hold your breath for 4, exhale for 4
5. Repeat as long as you feel comfortable.
7Breathwork for better physical performance ‘High-altitude training’
Breathing exercises can help to improve your physical performance as they have the capacity of enhancing respiratory muscles and VO2 max as well as delaying lactic acid emission.
The ‘live high and train low’ model, created by Dr. Benjamin Levine and Dr. James Stray-Gundersen, involves living at moderate altitudes and training at lower altitudes to maintain high altitude benefits. A study on distance runners showed a significant improvement in red blood cell volume and VO2 max, resulting in a performance improvement in a 5,000-meter run.
Simulating high-altitude training is a great way to improve your respiratory system strength, so that you will be able to exercise more intensively and for a longer time.
Note from Healrhypedia
Practise this exercise at least 2 hours after having a meal as it involves walking.
1. Walk for a minute at a normal for your pace. After the first minute of walking, exhale and pinch your nose in order to hold your breath.
2. Keep on walking and holding your breath till you start feeling a medium or strong air hunger.
3. Stop pinching the nose, inhale through it and start taking very short breaths for about 15 seconds. After this allow your breathing to return to normal.
4. Keep walking for 30 seconds and repeat.
5. During your walk, repeat 8 to 10 breath holds.
This exercise takes approximately 12 minutes and is extremely effective at making your body able to do more physical activity with less effort.
8Breathing exercise to lower blood pressure
Breathing exercises have a greater impact on lowering blood pressure than most people realise, despite appearing too easy and unrealistic. By practising slow and light breathing, the body absorbs more oxygen and retains more CO₂, which results in a slower heart rate and significant improvements in blood pressure levels.
1. Count to six while breathing in
2. Exhale to the same count from one to six
3. Keep breathing in and out lightly and slowly while counting.
4. Practise for up two minutes (mind your comfort, if you feel that it is too hard for you to continue for two minutes reduce the time)
Breathing slowly allows for increased oxygen absorption and CO₂ retention. If you place a hand on the chest while practising this breathing pattern, you will feel your heart rate slowing down. James Nestor, a science journalist and author of ‘Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,’ tried this exercise after a conversation with Dr. Patricia Gerberg and Dr. Richard Brown from Columbia University. He reported a decrease in blood pressure by 15 mmHg after practising slow breathing exercises.
9Breath-holding exercise ‘Alternate nostril breathing’
Breath-holding has been scientifically proven to have various health benefits including improved respiratory muscle strength, a stronger immune system and even slower ageing. By practising this alternate nostril breath-holding exercise, which belongs to yogic breath works that are proven to reduce stress, you can get all the benefits of holding your breath.
1. Ensure that you are in a comfortable position. Breathe in through your left nostril while blocking your right nostril with your thumb.
2. With your ring finger, cover your left nostril and breathe out through your right nostril.
3. Breathe in through your right nostril, pinch and breathe out through your right nostril.
One cycle of this exercise equals two in-breath and two out-breath. It’s a good idea to practice it four times whenever you need to slow down or relax.
10Breathwork to decongest your nose
A congested nose is one of the most common causes of mouth breathing. This exercise is meant to eradicate this cause by increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the blood and releasing nitric oxide into the nasal cavity.
Even if you are not a mouth-breather, you may try utilising this exercise when having a stuffy or runny nose during seasonal flu. It will come in handy and is definitely better than nasal drops which can dry the mucous and disrupt the sense of smell.
1. Take a small breath in through your nose and a small breath out through your nose.
2. Pinch your nose with your fingers and walk around while you hold your breath.
3. Hold your breath on an exhalation and walk around, continue walking and holding your breath until you feel a medium to strong air hunger.
4. Then let go and breathe in through your nose.
5. Rest for a few seconds with normal breathing and repeat it again. Repeat it five times, your nose will have opened up, that’s how we restore nasal breathing.
Breathing techniques offer numerous benefits for our overall health and well-being. By practising these exercises, we can improve our physical performance, reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and achieve deeper sleep. The benefits of these exercises are not limited to physical health; they also positively impact our emotional and mental health. By incorporating these breathing techniques into your daily routine, you can achieve ultimate health, vitality, and longevity. Remember, the power to breathe better lies within you. Take control and breathe for a healthier and happier you!
Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues
If you’re interested in exploring the power of breath and how it can improve your physical and mental well-being, we highly recommend ‘The Oxygen Advantage’ by Patrick McKeown. In this book, McKeown explains how breathing exercises can increase respiratory muscle strength, boost immunity, and enhance athletic performance, among other benefits. He also provides practical tips and exercises that can help you improve your breathing habits and achieve optimal health. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance or someone looking to improve your overall quality of life, ‘The Oxygen Advantage’ is a must-read.
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