Breathing exercises can improve heart and lung function. Beyond that, though, they can change how our bodies react to stressful situations, leading to real changes in our physical and mental health. Best of all, they do not take a lot of skill to master, and anyone can do them in less than five minutes.

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a simple way to control shortness of breath. It improves breathing patterns, increases lung capacity, and slows the breathing rate.

To do pursed-lip breathing, inhale slowly for two counts through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. When exhaling, purse your lips like you are blowing out a candle and count to four. Repeat four to five times.


Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing benefits anyone but is especially helpful to people with COPD. This technique strengthens the diaphragm, decreases the energy and effort needed to breathe, and slows the breathing rate. For diaphragmatic breathing, lie flat on your back, bending your knees and supporting your head. Put your right hand on your chest and left hand just under your rib cage to feel your diaphragm as you breathe.

Inhale slowly using only your nose. Your stomach should move against your hand, and your chest should remain still. Exhale slowly through pursed lips and tighten the muscles in your stomach, keeping the hand on your chest as still as possible.


4-7-8 Breathing

A good breathing exercise for relaxation is 4-7-8 breathing. This technique uses the same basics as belly breathing, adding a specific pattern for inhaling, holding your breath, and exhaling that has a calming effect.

Sit down or lie on the floor, placing one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath while counting to four. Then, hold your breath and count to seven. Finally, exhale slowly, counting to eight. Let the air out of your lungs as slowly as you, so that exhaling takes the full eight counts. Repeat until you feel calm.


Morning Breathing

Morning breathing is a good way to start the day. It can help open blocked nasal passages and relieve muscle pain and stiffness, and you can use it throughout the day to relieve back pain and tension.

Stand up and bend forward at the waist, bending your knees slightly with your arms dangling to the floor. Breathe in slowly while rolling your spine until you're standing up straight. Hold your breath for a few seconds when standing straight, then exhale slowly while returning to the original position.


Breath Focus

Breath focus is a method of controlled breathing that helps clear the mind and encourages relaxation. Find a quiet place and sit or lie down, making yourself as comfortable as possible. Take a few normal breaths, then take a deep breath in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and abdomen to rise. Breathe out slowly through your mouth.

If you're really anxious, close your eyes and focus on something that will help you relax. Think about cuddling with your dog, walking along the water, or hearing your favorite song.



Humming while breathing is not only calming, but it also increases the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide has many effects, including building and repairing the nervous system and dilating blood vessels, which delivers more oxygen to the body.

For the best results, sit upright in a hard chair or on the edge of your bed. Put your hands on the sides of your stomach. Keeping your mouth closed, put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and breath in through your nose, pulling air into your stomach so your fingers spread apart. Then, exhale and hum while keeping your lips closed.


Yawn to Smile

Yawn to smile is a simple but effective breathing exercise that not only helps with anxiety and tension but also increases coordination and strengthens the shoulders and arms. Sit on the edge of your bed or chair and reach your arms overhead, stretching and pretending to yawn. Then, bring your arms back down to your sides and smile for three seconds. Repeat this sequence for a full minute.


Stimulating Breathing

If you need a breathing exercise to help you feel energized, try stimulating breathing. You will feel the effects of this breathing exercise in your diaphragm, abdomen, chest, and back of the neck.

Keep your mouth closed but relaxed. Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose, keeping each breath short but equal. Try to do three breaths every second for a cycle of 15 seconds, then take a break and breathe normally. As you get more comfortable with this exercise, add five seconds to each cycle, working up to a full minute.


Breathing for Physical Health

When done regularly, breathing exercises help improve lung function, particularly the health of the diaphragm. The diaphragm does about 80 percent of the work of inhaling and exhaling, and when it is not working to its full capacity, the body adjusts by using other muscles to breathe, like those in the back, chest, and neck. Not only does this mean lower oxygen levels, but it can also cause pain and discomfort.

These exercises are extremely helpful to people with chronic lung problems, like COPD and asthma, but everyone can benefit from them.


Breathing for Mental Health

Breathing exercises can also improve mental health. Studies show that breathing techniques can help people cope with stage fright, overcome insomnia, improve sleep, and relieve symptoms of more significant mental health issues, like PTSD, depression, and phobias.

Some research also suggests that regular breathing exercises can modify the brain, making people less likely to experience significant stress.


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