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Breathing Exercises

More About Breathing Exercises

Breathing is a necessity of life that usually occurs without much thought. When you breathe in, blood cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that's carried back through your body and exhaled.

Improper breathing can upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and other physical and emotional disturbances.

The next time you’re feeling anxious, there are a variety of anxiety breathing exercises to try. Learn how to use breathing exercises to help relieve feelings of anxiety and stress.

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Alternate-nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) involves blocking off one nostril at a time as you breathe through the other, alternating between nostrils in a regular pattern. It's best to practice this type of anxiety-relieving breathing in a seated position in order to maintain your posture.

  1. Position your right hand by bending your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky extended. This is known as Vishnu mudra in yoga.

  2. Close your eyes or softly gaze downward.

  3. Inhale and exhale to begin.

  4. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.

  5. Inhale through your left nostril.

  6. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.

  7. Open and exhale through your right nostril.

  8. Inhale through your right nostril.

  9. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.

  10. Open and exhale through your left nostril.

  11. Inhale through your left nostril.

Work up to 10 rounds of this breathing pattern. If you begin to feel lightheaded, take a break by releasing both nostrils and breathing normally.

Belly Breathing

According to The American Institute of Stress, 20 to 30 minutes of "belly breathing," also known as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, each day can reduce stress and anxiety.

Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. For example, try sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged, or lying on your back with a small pillow under your head and another under your knees.

  1. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly, below the ribcage.

  2. Allow your belly to relax, without forcing it inward by squeezing or clenching your muscles.

  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose. The air should move into your nose and downward so that you feel your stomach rise with your other hand and fall inward (toward your spine).

  4. Exhale slowly through slightly pursed lips. Take note of the hand on your chest, which should remain relatively still.

Box Breathing

Also known as four-square breathing, box breathing is very simple to learn and practice. In fact, if you've ever noticed yourself inhaling and exhaling to the rhythm of a song, you're already familiar with this type of paced breathing. It goes like this:

  1. Exhale to a count of four.

  2. Hold your lungs empty for a four-count.

  3. Inhale to a count of four.

  4. Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four.

  5. Exhale and begin the pattern anew.

4-7-8 Breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, also called the relaxing breath, acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. At first, it's best to perform the exercise seated with your back straight. Once you become more familiar with this breathing exercise, however, you can perform it while lying in bed.

  1. Place and keep the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth for the duration of the exercise.

  2. Completely exhale through your mouth, making a "whoosh" sound.

  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

Lion’s Breath

Lion’s breath, or simhasana in Sanskrit, during which you stick out your tongue and roar like a lion, is another helpful deep breathing practice. It can help relax the muscles in your face and jaw, alleviate stress, and improve cardiovascular function.

The exercise is best performed in a comfortable, seated position, leaning forward slightly with your hands on your knees or the floor.

  1. Spread your fingers as wide as possible.

  2. Inhale through your nose.

  3. Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue, and stretch it down toward your chin.

  4. Exhale forcefully, carrying the breath across the root of your tongue.

  5. While exhaling, make a "ha" sound that comes from deep within your abdomen.

  6. Breathe normally for a few moments.

  7. Repeat lion’s breath up to seven times.

Mindfulness Breathing

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention to the present without allowing your mind to drift to the past or future. Engaging in mindfulness breathing exercises serves the same purpose, which can help ease your anxiety.

One mindfulness breathing exercise to try involves choosing a calming focus, including a sound ("om"), positive word ("peace"), or phrase ("breathe in calm, breathe out tension") to repeat silently as you inhale or exhale. Let go and relax. If you notice that your mind has drifted, take a deep breath and gently return your attention to the present.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is a simple breathing technique that will help make deep breaths slower and more intentional. This technique has been found to benefit people who have anxiety associated with lung conditions like emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your neck and shoulders relaxed.

  2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nostrils for two seconds.

  3. Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, puckering your lips as if giving a kiss.

  4. Keep your breath slow and steady while breathing out.

To get the correct breathing pattern, experts recommend practicing pursed-lip breathing four to five times a day.

Resonance Breathing

Resonance breathing, or coherent breathing, can help you get into a relaxed state and reduce anxiety.

  1. Lie down and close your eyes.

  2. Gently breathe in through your nose, mouth closed, for a count of six seconds. Don't fill your lungs too full of air.

  3. Exhale for six seconds, allowing your breath to leave your body slowly and gently without forcing it.

  4. Continue for up to 10 minutes.

  5. Take a few additional minutes to be still and focus on how your body feels.

Simple Breathing Exercise

You can perform this simple breathing exercise as often as needed. It can be done standing up, sitting, or lying down. If you find this exercise difficult or believe it's making you anxious or panicky, stop for now. Try it again in a day or so and build up the time gradually.

  1. ​Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should expand, and your chest should rise very little.

  2. Exhale slowly through your mouth. As you blow air out, purse your lips slightly but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “whooshing” sound as you exhale.

  3. Repeat this breathing exercise. Do it for several minutes until you start to feel better.


all breathing exercises listed above were sourced from the following website.

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