Box breathing is a great place to start with your breathing exercises. As with all of our breathing exercises that are outlined here, this improves blood flow and begins the process of detoxifying the body.
Before you begin, sit up with your shoulders back and relaxed. You may stand as well. Just be sure you have your best posture and your shoulders are relaxed.
- Breathe in to the count of 4
- Hold to the count of 4
- Breathe out to the count of 4
- Pause to the count of 4
This exercise helps you relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body. It lowers your heart rate . It helps lower your blood pressure . It helps you cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
- Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
- Repeat these steps several times for best results.
The rib stretch is another helpful deep breathing exercise. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand up straight and arch your back.
- Breathe out until you just can’t anymore.
- Inhale slowly and gradually, taking in as much air as possible until you can’t breathe in anymore.
- Hold your breath for about 10 seconds.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth. You can do this normally or with pursed lips.
Numbered breathing is a good exercise for gaining control over your breathing patterns. Here’s how you can do it:
- Stand up, staying still, and close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply until you can’t take in anymore air.
- Exhale until all air has been emptied from your lungs.
- Keep your eyes closed! Now, inhale again while picturing the number 1.
- Keep the air in your lungs for a few seconds, then let it all out.
- Inhale again while picturing the number 2.
- Hold your breath while counting silently to 3, then let it all out again.
- Repeat these steps until you’ve reached 8. Feel free to count higher if you feel comfortable
Pursed lip breathing
This exercise should be practiced until it becomes second nature. It’s most effective when you’re focused or relaxed. Here’s how to practice.
- Sit with your back straight or lie down. Relax your shoulders as much as possible.
- Inhale through your nose for two seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen. Try to fill your abdomen with air instead of just your lungs.
- Purse your lips like you’re blowing on hot food and then breathe out slowly, taking twice as long to exhale as you took to breathe in.
- Then repeat. Over time, you can increase the inhale and exhale counts from 2 seconds to 4 seconds, and so on.
Breath Focus Technique
This deep breathing technique uses imagery or focus words and phrases.
You can choose a focus word that makes you smile, feel relaxed, or that is simply neutral to think about. Examples include peace, let go, or relax, but it can be any word that suits you to focus on and repeat through your practice.
As you build up your breath focus practice you can start with a 10-minute session. Gradually increase the duration until your sessions are at least 20 minutes.
To do it:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.
- Bring your awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you’re breathing.
- Alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times. Notice any differences between normal breathing and deep breathing. Notice how your abdomen expands with deep inhalations.
- Note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing.
- Practice your deep breathing for a few minutes.
- Place one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed, and notice how it rises with each inhale and falls with each exhale.
- Let out a loud sigh with each exhale.
Begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation.
You can imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body. Mentally say, “Inhaling peace and calm.”
Imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety. You can say to yourself, “Exhaling tension and anxiety.”
Lion’s breath is an energizing yoga breathing practice that is said to relieve tension in your chest and face.
It’s also known in yoga as Lion’s Pose or simhasana in Sanskrit.
To do this:
- Come into a comfortable seated position. You can sit back on your heels or cross your legs.
- Press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and open your eyes wide.
- At the same time, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin.
- Contract the muscles at the front of your throat as you exhale out through your mouth by making a long “ha” sound.
- You can turn your gaze to look at the space between your eyebrows or the tip of your nose.
- Do this breath 2 to 3 times.