4 Breathing techniques and how they can benefit your health

a green planet
a green planet

Pausing for a moment to take the time to breathe—really breathe—can do wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional health.

According to the American Lung Association, practicing intentional breathing techniques can strengthen and sharpen your lungs just like exercise strengthens your muscles and keeps your heart healthy.

Breathing techniques can really help you in stressful, intense, scary and emotional situations. Although our bodies rely on such fight-or-flight reactions in dangerous situations, the continual triggering of this can really start to affect us negatively.

Deep breathing increases the oxygen supply to our brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn promotes calmness.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, deep breathing is especially helpful as it takes your awareness away from your problems for a moment and helps you focus on something else.

Even if you’re feeling great, practicing some intentional breathing can be a crucial part of cultivating mindfulness.

Breathing techniques are also something to practice when you find you can’t fall asleep. They can really help relax your mind.

Whatever the reason you need to stop for a moment and breathe, check out some of these breathing techniques you can safely practice on your own.

If you experience strange sensations, dizziness or nausea during a breathing exercise, sit or lie down and resume normal breathing.

1. Box breathing

Source: CHI Health/YouTube

Box breathing, or square breathing, is a very simple breathing technique that can return your breathing to a normal pattern. It can help with stress, mood and control your emotions.

The best way to visualize box breathing is to imagine that you are breathing around a box.

  • Inhale for four seconds (imagine moving on top of a box)
  • Hold your breath for four seconds (imagine moving along the side of the box)
  • Exhale for four seconds (imagine moving to the bottom of the box)
  • Hold your breath for four seconds (imagine moving to the other side of the box)

Come back or breathe normally after you’re done.

2. Breath of the lion

This is a breathing exercise and pose that is practiced in yoga. Lion’s breath is a type of pranayama, a breath-regulating practice believed to support mental and physical well-being.

Source: Yoga with Adriene/YouTube

It is done to help release negative energy, stimulate the vocal cords and diaphragm, and relax the facial and throat muscles.

  • Sit in a chair or sit cross-legged or kneeling on a mat on the floor. Be comfortable.
  • Bring your hands to the tops of your knees and press gently to activate the muscles in your arms and hands. Keep your fingers open.
  • Inhale deeply.
  • Open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out pointing it towards the floor. As you do this, she audibly exhales.
  • Practice up to five times and return to regular breathing for a few moments afterward.

3. Diaphragmatic breathing

Source: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/YouTube

The diaphragm is a muscle that helps you breathe. The diaphragm is located where the rib cage joins in the front of the torso, under the chest. If you put your hand here and cough, it may feel tense.

This exercise helps to strengthen the diaphragm and decrease the respiratory rate. This exercise is best done lying down, although you can also do it sitting down.

  • Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Inhale through your nose. Let your belly rise, but try to keep your chest still.
  • As you exhale, feel your belly sink.
  • Do this for three to five minutes.

4. Alternate nostril breathing

Source: Yoga with Adriene/YouTube

Here we have another pranayama yoga technique. Practicing alternate nostril breathing is believed to help calm the nervous system and relieve tension, stress, and anxiety.

You can practice this exercise sitting in a chair or sitting cross-legged on the floor. Make yourself comfortable.

  • Exhale completely.
  • Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Next, close the left nostril with your finger and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close it, then exhale through the left nostril.
  • This is a cycle. Continues.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a physician before starting breathing techniques if you have any health problems (mental or physical), are pregnant, or are taking any medications.

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