10 Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises help you relax and relieve stress, and can improve your lung capacity.

Equal Breathing

  • This is good to relax ready for bed, but can be used any time you want to relax, calm your mind or increase your focus.
  • Inhale and exhale through the nose, counting to four each way.
  • When this becomes easy, try breathing for six or eight beats each way.

Belly Breathing

  • A good way to relax, or calm yourself in stressful circumstances.
  • Sit upright on a comfortable chair, or on the floor with your legs crossed.
  • Place one hand on your belly, in line with your belly button. Place the other on your chest.
  • Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose using your diaphragm. The hand on your stomach should move out while the one on your chest remains still.
  • Breath out slowly through pursed lips, as though whistling. Feel the hand on your belly move in and push all the air out of your lungs.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.

4-7-8 Breathing

  • Another general technique for relaxation.
  • Place your hands on your belly and your chest as above.
  • Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Breathe into your belly while you count silently to four.
  • Hold your breath while you count slowly and silently to seven.
  • Breath out through your mouth in a controlled manner while you count to eight. Try to completely empty your lungs by the time you reach eight.
  • Repeat the cycle 5 to 10 times.

Roll Breathing

  • This is a good breathing exercise for relaxation and focus.
  • Place your hands on your belly and chest as above, and practise belly breathing 5 to 10 times.
  • When you’re comfortable with breathing into your belly, add the next step; breathe into your belly as before to fill your lower lungs, then continue by breathing into your chest to fill your upper lungs.
  • Hold your breath for a couple of beats, and then exhale slowly through your mouth letting first your belly fall, then your chest.
  • Practise breathing this way for several minutes, however if at any time you feel light-headed or dizzy stop and breathe normally.

Morning Breathing

  • Good to do first thing in the morning to relieve muscle tension and back stiffness, and clear clogged breathing passages.
  • Stand up straight, then bend forward at the waist. Let your arms flop forward towards the floor and bend slightly at the knees.
  • As you inhale, slowly and deeply, roll your back until you are standing straight again. Lift your head last of all.
  • Hold your breath for a couple of beats, and raise your arms above your head.
  • Exhale slowly and sink back to the previous position, bending at the waist.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • This is said to unite the left and right sides of the brain, and is best to do when you want to focus or energise yourself.
  • Assume a comfortable position, ideally sitting upright.
  • Using your thumb, close off your right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • At the peak of inhalation close off the left nostril and exhale through the right.
  • Continue the pattern by breathing in through the right nostril, and then closing it off and exhaling through the left.

“Skull Shining Breath”

  • This is difficult to do, and very hard work for your abdominal muscles, so don’t push yourself too hard. If it becomes uncomfortable or you feel light-headed, stop and return to breathing normally.
  • It is good for warming up the body and waking up the brain.
  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose.
  • Exhale through your nose quickly and forcefully, using your abdominal muscles to power it.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times, aiming to complete one inhalation and exhalation per one to two seconds.

Bellows Breathing

  • This technique may cause you to become light headed. Do not push yourself if you feel uncomfortable or dizzy, and do not maintain it for longer than a few seconds at first.
  • Good for physical stimulation and an energy boost.
  • Sit in a comfortable, upright position.
  • With your mouth closed, breathe rapidly in and out of your nose.
  • Imagine your lungs are bellows pumping air; inhalation and exhalation should be equal in length and as fast as possible.
  • You should feel an effort in the muscles of your neck, chest and abdomen.

Chinese Breath Technique

  • This is helpful for increasing lung capacity, but as with the Bellows technique, may cause lightheadedness.
  • Begin with your arms hanging loosely by yoursides.
  • Do three short inhales through the nose, without exhaling in between each intake.
  • On the first inhalation raise your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height.
  • On the second inhalation, open your arms out to the sides, keeping them at shoulder height.
  • On the third and final inhalation raise your arms straight above your head.
  • Hold your breathe and hold position for a couple of beats, then slowly exhale while lowering your arms back to your sides in a controlled arc.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Partially Submerged Breathing

  • This is great for increasing lung capacity.
  • When the body is submerged up to the neck in water the pressure of the water on your chest makes it harder to breathe than normal.
  • Practise any of the deep breathing techniques while partially submerged in water to make your lungs work harder and to increase your lung capacity.

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