Inhale oxygen, exhale worries: The top breathing exercises and how to perform them


Last Updated September 5th, 2019

What are breathing exercises?

Breathing is a daily routine of our body where there is a gas exchange from the external environment to the lungs and vice versa.  Here, oxygen is inhaled and carbon dioxide is exhaled out and this phenomenon is highly important for our survival.  Now, breathing exercise may sound a bit strange as you may think that should anyone even learn how to breathe and manage it.

It should be noted that for a healthy person, breathing is a normal phenomenon and hence you would even hardly think about breathing exercise.  On the other hand, there are few instances where a person can become anxious, stressed, and even suffer from underlying health conditions where his or her breathing can vary drastically.  During a period of anxiety and stress, we tend to use the axillary muscles for breathing and not the diaphragm.

Breathing exercises lungs healthyThis phenomenon can make things worse and can aggravate your anxiety symptoms.  This is the time where breathing exercises come handy.  Performing the breathing exercise is like becoming mindful of how you breathe.

While performing the breathing exercise, we tend to convey signals to the brain which can then control the heartbeat and secrete the hormones to control the stress levels.  For example, performing yoga is one of the best ways to regulate your breathing, which also happens to be the oldest exercise regimen known to control the body and mind.

How do breathing exercises benefit us?

Breathing exercises come handy in various situations in life.  People suffering from health disorders such as lung disease can greatly benefit from the breathing exercise.  Similarly, people suffering from frequent anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure can benefit by performing these breathing exercises.  The following are the benefits of breathing exercise.

Improves lung disorders

Lung disorders can vary in many ways.  Few are mild and get resolved over a period of time, whereas few are severe and last for the whole life.  These severe cases of lung disorders can cause the most important symptom called difficulty with breathing.

This is a condition where the lungs are not functioning properly which means you are not getting enough oxygen in and not exhaling the required amount of carbon dioxide out.  This is a dangerous situation where the body could soon become toxic and lead to other complications.  Since the body is not getting enough oxygen from the environment, the axillary muscles kick in and you tend to put more pressure on your lungs to inhale more oxygen.

This would make you become tired fast and can cause other complications.  This condition would generally require immediate medical attention.  Even after adequate medical attention is obtained, the lungs may not perform their 100% and hence performing breathing exercise is highly suggested.

Studies have indicated that breathing exercises can drastically increase lung function during a bout of asthma or COPD.  Studies have indicated that performing breathing exercise not only increases the lung function but also the overall lifestyle as the person is able to be more active with better breathing.  It was also found that medications coupled with breathing exercise can provide better chances of recovery in patients suffering from COPD.

Reduces blood pressure

Emotional situations such as anxiety and depression can cause severe emotional stress, which leads to a sudden rise in blood pressure.  Due to the sudden rise in blood pressure, the underlying condition not only exacerbates but may also cause damage to the heart.

Frequent increase in blood pressure can be detrimental and can lead to several heart problems including heart attack.  Studies have indicated that performing breathing exercises in stressful situations can help reduce blood pressure and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and stress.  As a matter of fact, AHA has suggested practicing breathing exercise as one of the remedies to reduce blood pressure.

Limit stress and anxiety

Anxiety and stress are two aspects of our life that can hardly be controlled.  This situation can easily get out of hand and lead to depression if left uncontrolled.  Anxiety can occur to anyone, a child or an adult.  You may get an anxiety attack if you are attending the first day of the school or going to an interview.  Studies have indicated that performing breathing exercise can reduce this anxiety and depression by sending signals to the brain.

These signals would convey messages to the brain to secrete hormones that can regulate the heartbeat as well as secrete hormones that provide a soothing effect such as serotonin.  It has been found that this can be achieved by slowing your breathing.  Following this method can reduce the anxiety levels and help you get over it quite easily.

Help reduce insomnia

Insomnia has become quite common among the young generation which can be attributed to the lifestyle.  The human body undergoes a phenomenon called the circadian rhythm.  During a circadian rhythm, the body undergoes a full cycle within a period of 24 hours where the brain would regulate the hormones in order to make you sleep and be awake.  Due to the modern era where people tend to be awake in the nights and sleep in the daytime, this circadian rhythm generally gets disrupted.

Due to this, you may not fall asleep when you go to bed and may end up staying awake for hours.  Studies have indicated that insomnia can be reduced by performing breathing exercises.  Following the breathing exercise can calm your brain down and help the brain to secrete hormones that would help you fall asleep.  A good night sleep would make you much more energetic in the day and help you accomplish various tasks.

Various types of breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are formulated for various needs.  There are several types of breathing exercises and each serves a specific cause.  Breathing exercises are widely used to treat issues related to breathing such as asthma, COPD, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.  Similarly, there are breathing exercises that can reduce your blood pressure and improve your sleep problems.  Some of the important breathing exercises are discussed below.

Controlled breathing

Breathing with the help of yoga is considered to be highly rewarding as it focuses on both mind and body at the same time.  This method of breathing is called controlled breathing where you focus on breathing by controlling it with the help of your fingers.  This type of breathing can be done by following these instructions.

Place the right thumb on the right nostril and breathe through the left nostril.  Next, release the thumb from the right nostril and place the ring finger on the left nostril.  Now start breathing through the right nostril.  Continue the same procedure for a few minutes.  By doing this, you will be concentrating on which nostril you are working with and this makes you active as well as energetic.  This breathing exercise improves your concentration and makes your breathing more effective.

Another way of breathing is by taking a long and deep breath and then releasing the air through the mouth by keeping the head back and putting your tongue out.  This helps in releasing bad energy from the body and getting in positive energy.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Abdominal breathing is the other name for this exercise.  Here, you will be working with your belly.  This breathing exercise can be performed both by lying down as well as in sitting position.  The main concept of this breathing exercise is to breathe through the nose.  You can perform diaphragmatic breathing exercise by following these instructions.  First, you need to place one hand on the belly and the other hand on the chest.  Now, take a deep breath for a period of two seconds which would make your belly to fill with air.  Now, breathe out through the mouth slowly and feel the belly to go in.

Pursed lip breathing

One of the most widely used breathing exercises is pursed-lip breathing.  The main aspect of this breathing exercise is to release the trapped air present in the lung.  Here, you will forego the regular inhale and exhale protocol and adopt a new protocol where you will be inhaling once and exhaling twice.

This helps release the trapped air and inhale less air.  Pursed lip breathing can be performed by following these instructions.  Here, you will inhale for a period of two seconds in a normal way.  Next, keep the lips pursed and exhale your breath out for four seconds.  Continue the same process for a minute or two to release the trapped air in the lungs.

4-7-8 breathing

If you are suffering from sleep problems such as insomnia, this breathing exercise is the right one for you.  The main concept of this breathing is to reduce the heart rate by slowing the breathing.  This overall would make you feel relaxed and help you to fall asleep.  To perform this exercise you need to breathe out through your mouth first.  Next, close your mouth and inhale for four seconds with your nose.

Next, hold your breath for seven seconds and then exhale the air for a period of eight seconds.  Continue the same process for a minute or two.  The whole process would make you to breathe slowly and reduce the heart rate and provide you a relaxed feeling.

Breath counting

If you are having a stressful lifestyle and looking for some relaxation, breath counting seems to be the best breathing exercise for you.  This exercise makes you concentrate and hence avoids your mind from wandering.  First, get into a comfortable position and start breathing normally.

After some time, start counting every time you exhale out.  Once you reach five, stop counting and start over again.  Since you need to count whenever you exhale, you need to really concentrate on what you are doing and hence all your focus remains at only counting and hence makes you relaxed.

Complications

Breathing exercises are designed in such a way that it can be followed by anybody anywhere.  Breathing exercises are generally performed as an additional remedy along with traditional treatment with medications in order to treat underlying health conditions.  It should be noted that breathing exercises alone cannot treat or cure any underlying health condition and should be performed only after consulting your healthcare professional.

Bottom line

The main concept of breathing exercise is to provide better breathing function by regulating inhaling and exhaling.  The fact that these exercises can be performed anywhere and at any time makes it versatile.  Performing breathing exercises in the right way can help relieve anxiety and stress, reduce blood pressure, as well as aid in improved breathing for people suffering from lung disorders.  Performing the right breathing exercise for a particular problem makes it much more beneficial and hence mastering the art is highly recommended.

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