We breathe to live. We rely on oxygen to survive. If we can’t breathe efficiently it is uncomfortable and disconcerting! Our breathing is vital for life, however, we can use our breathing consciously to improve our health and healing too.
Have you ever been upset or anxious and had someone say to you, take a deep breath? Can you recall controlling your breath to ease physical pain and discomfort? If you have gone through childbirth, you would have been told how to breathe to help you get through! These are just a few examples of how breathing exercises can help you.
Breathing Exercises to Help Reduce Pain or Stress
If you are suffering from physical pain or emotional health issues you may like to try breathing exercises to help you heal yourself or reduce the intensity of the symptoms.
Diaphragmatic Breathing or Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is also called diaphragmatic breathing. It requires you to use your abdominal muscles, diaphragm, and stomach when breathing, rather than the top part of your lungs. You take deep breaths, way down into your diaphragm. Average breaths only expand your chest and shoulders. Deep breaths, on the other hand, stretches your stomach outward.
If you are new to the concept of deep breathing, practice belly breathing while lying down on a flat surface. Rest your head on a pillow and place another one under your knees. Breathe through your nose when you inhale and feel your stomach push upward. Exhale slowly through your mouth and feel your stomach fall downward. Your chest should remain still throughout.
Once you get comfortable with belly breathing while lying down, you can practice this breathing exercise while sitting or standing. To make sure you are doing it right, place your hand on your diaphragm (stomach area) and feel your breath push your body out.
Belly breathing offers several health benefits. It stabilizes your core muscles, lowers your blood pressure, and alleviates symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as fatigue and shortness of breath. It also promotes relaxation and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Relaxing Breath or 4-7-8 Breathing
The ‘relaxing breath’ or 4-7-8 breathing technique can help you relax if you are feeling anxious or having problems sleeping. It is a simple breathing pattern that involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This pattern can also help you control your cravings and responses when you are angry.
Practice the 4-7-8 breathing at least twice a day while sitting or lying down because your first few attempts may make you feel dizzy. You will feel a lot better with enough practice and you should notice good results. Just make sure you follow the correct ratio.
Some of the benefits of 4-7-8 breathing are lower blood pressure, reduced symptoms of asthma and fatigue, and better anger and stress management.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing can be performed anytime. It helps you manage stress, relax your mind and body, and achieve more focus. It improves your lung function and lowers your heart rate.
You need to sit upright as you practice this breathing exercise. Close your right nostril and inhale through your open left nostril. Then, while still holding your breath, place your finger on your left nostril to close it. Next, open your right nostril and exhale.
Repeat the pattern, but this time, keep your left nostril closed and breathe through your right one. Again, while still holding your breath, close the right nostril, and open the left one to exhale.
Repeat the breathing exercise for five minutes.
Equal breathing is an easy breathing technique that you can do anytime and anywhere too. Sit upright and keep your eyes closed. Inhale through both your nostrils in four counts. Exhale through both your nostrils for another four counts. Repeat the pattern until you feel relaxed. Equal breathing is the perfect exercise if you have sleep problems.
Breathing techniques offer several health benefits, plus they are easy to do and don’t take up a lot of time. You can start practicing your preferred breathing exercise for two to five minutes per session.
Practice the breathing pattern a few times a day. Increase your time once you feel more comfortable doing it. They help you relax your mind and body. They promote better mental and physical health by reducing stress and pain.
Learn and experiment with the different breathing patterns until it becomes a regular habit for you.