How often do you cherish a deep, invigorating breath? Are you aware of your general shallow, poor breathing habits? Has it ever crossed your mind that the way we breathe can impact our overall wellness and even our fitness level?
Breath is a source of prana (a force of life) and is among the most basic of all human functions. Yet, somehow we lose our connection with our breath. We take it for granted. It is unnatural to breathe deeply for most of us, and we so often tend to go for shallow chest breathing.
The good news is that you can always learn and explore the power of deep breathing and enjoy its science-backed benefits! Why not start right now?
Time for a …breathing experiment!
Let’s try a really quick, simple breathing experiment. Take a pause and allow a moment for yourself. Just breathe and become aware of your pattern.
I know you are snowed under work, caught up in the dizzily fast and plugged-in pace of hectic daily life. And you can barely cope with your insanely busy schedule. Idiomatically speaking, you …don’t even have time to breathe or catch your breath. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed with everything happening around you. Don’t worry; it is literally a one-minute exercise. What’s more, it will give you an invigorating glimpse into some benefits of deep breathing you can experience immediately.
So, are you ready? Take a deep refreshing breath. Pay attention to how your belly fills with air at a count of two. Pause for a second or for as much as you enjoy the sensation. Exhale softly, as slowly as you can, to the count of four. Repeat at least for one minute.
Congratulations! With this simple timed pranayama technique, you have just triggered your parasympathetic nervous system and soothed your overburdened mind! The trick is that the longer the exhales are, the more you calm down. Of course, for better results, you could use a timer and set it to five minutes. However, it is important to start small until you can turn it into a breathwork routine. We should never underestimate the power of atomic habits!
What are the benefits of breathing exercises?
Let’s discover together some powerful deep breathing exercises and understand their benefits.
Surely, you don’t have to be a respiratory therapist to know that as your breathing slows, lots of things happen inside you: your heart rate decreases, your blood pressure lowers or stabilizes. Even more, you can feel how your body is gently undergoing a state of healing, calm and stillness. Turn it into a routine, and you will enjoy these scientifically proven benefits and even more! Let’s find out how and what breathwork techniques are effective and beneficial!
You need to know that controlled breathing, like what you just tried, has been proved to relieve the impact of daily stressors and lessen anxiety. More than a stress management tool, it improves your immune system and psycho and physiological states. How is this possible? By activating the body’s natural relaxation response.
What is even more interesting, it seems that effective breathing technique can help coronavirus patients with respiratory symptoms. The video pinned by BBC London went viral, reached millions of people, and it got thousands of positive comments from those who have tried it and found it helpful. Undeniably, the research is still in an embryonic stage. Yet, these types of preliminary results seem to be promising.
Pranayama, the art of controlled breathing
Breath control is, in fact, an ancient breathwork practice rooted in Buddhism. For centuries yogis have practised breath control, or pranayama, to intensify concentration and elevate their energy level. In other words, they exploited the power of breathwork in their struggle to connect the mind, body, and spirit. Thus, breathwork has always been intimately connected with the yogic practices to reach the state of heightened self-awareness, health and spiritual growth.
Pranayama breathing techniques have always been a core part of yoga practices, enhancing the positive effects. According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, pranayama is a term derived from Sanskrit: ‘prana’ literally translates as ‘life force’, and ‘ayama’ means ‘extension.’ In other words, pranayama refers to the conscious control of breath. Thus, it came to function as an umbrella term widely used to encompass various breath control practices.
Here is our selection of the most effective breathing exercises.
The best Breathing exercises for stress relief
Do you feel a deep sense of relaxation dripping in your soul whenever you hear the sound of waves gently splashing against the shore? Well, do you fancy recreating a similar state of calm and relaxation, right from the comfort of your own home? Then it would help if you tried a controlled breathing exercise like Ujjayi breath or ocean’s breath! Let’s find out why and how to perform this long soft breath, which creates a sound resembling that sweet soothing tumult of waves on a shore!
What benefits can it bring if you incorporate this practice into your breathwork routine? Is this fancy-sounding exercise a difficult practice for beginners? The good news for you? This foundational practice of pranayama, commonly known as ocean breath or warrior breath, is a great controlled breathing exercise for beginners too!
Basic procedure for Ujjayi breath (video tutorial)
You definitely need to experiment with Ujjayi breath or ocean breath if you want a boost of energy levels to enhance your wellbeing. Then, this video tutorial will help you understand its basic procedure with clear instructions. Basically, you will learn how to control your breath to enhance the amount of oxygen for your body.
The main takeaway for this exercise + bonus ocean wave soundscape
The trick is to gently tighten the back of the throat to prolong each breath sequence. Each inhalation and exhalation is long, thorough, deep, and controlled. This is a deceptively simple yet powerful exercise to have in your wellness toolkit. Even more, it will help you lighten the effects of physical, mental and emotional tension. Do you want to make your breathing experience even more delightful? Then it might be a good idea to use this excellent guided meditation with ocean waves soundscape combined with theta brain waves?
“Diaphragmatic breathing (slow abdominal breathing)”
Essentially, this type of exercise (also popularly known as belly/ abdominal breathing) helps fortify your diaphragm, the dome-shaped respiratory muscle right below your chest. You have undoubtedly heard that it plays an important role in deep breathing by lessening stress responses correlated with “fight-or-flight” mechanisms. So, what is the basic procedure of this type of exercise? What happens when you breathe in and exhale air?
Ready? Inhale through your nose and try to take a deep breath by contracting or tightening your diaphragm. You can now feel how you have more space in your chest cavity, allowing your lungs to expand. Of course, when you exhale, the reverse happens — your diaphragm decompresses. This is a powerful exercise with proven health benefits. For instance, a study from 2010 reported the positive effects of slow abdominal breathing combined with EMG biofeedback. Particularly, it proved that it can be an effective intervention tool to manage prehypertension.
Here you have more details about what happens during diaphragmatic breathing, the basic procedure with step-by-step instructions, and some tips and precautions you need to consider.
Check how you can use belly breathing and other interesting breathing exercises adapted for your kids in our previous article Mindfulness mediation for kids.
Experiment more with controlled breathing and different patterns! Do you want to try a light breathing exercise to help you lower the effects of stress and calm your mind, especially before a stressful event? Then you should learn how to “reset your breathing” rhythm with box breathing or four-square breathing. It is straightforward to do, easy to learn, and can be a highly powerful technique to use in any stressful situation to enhance the amount of oxygen for your body.
Bhramari pranayama is an effective breathing exercise if you need to instantly calm down, detoxify your mind from negative emotions, worries, anger, frustration.
The exhalation in this pranayama resembles the typical humming sound of a bee, which explains its name too.
Find out how to do this exercise, along with clear instructions, video tutorials, and precautions and contraindications. Why is it so effective? Among the usual benefits of breathing exercises like reducing blood pressure, it can help you with migraines and slight headaches! More than that, it can boost your confidence and improve your focus and memory. So, why not give it a try and see if it works for you?
Design by Stroia Armanda Ramona
“The stomach vacuum exercise“: a breathing exercise to lose belly fat
If you want more details, why not check this helpful video which clarifies and will give you a glimpse into eight practical breathing exercises to lose unwanted belly fat.
Do you want to feel rejuvenated and to dissolve the corrosive effects of daily stress? This simple breathing exercise alkalizes your body and is beneficial in terms of higher oxygen levels.
Hopefully, you will find these exercises useful! Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you! Don’t forget that breathing techniques are handy habits to develop and have in your wellness toolkit but should not replace medical treatment! Always consult your doctor or respiratory professional before beginning any breathing practice, particularly if you have any medical concerns or conditions.
So, don’t forget to …breathe deeply, cherish your blessings, and be grateful for being in the moment!
Bowker, J. (2000). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 12 Apr. 2021, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780192800947.001.0001/acref-9780192800947.
Wang SZ, Li S, Xu XY, Lin GP, Shao L, Zhao Y, Wang TH. Effect of slow abdominal breathing combined with biofeedback on blood pressure and heart rate variability in prehypertension. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Oct;16(10):1039-45. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0577. PMID: 20954960.