As babies, we all knew how to breathe properly. But as we grew older, leading a stressful lifestyle can cause us to lose that ability. As a result, most of us breathe in a dysfunctional way. Dysfunctional breathing can make us feel winded during physical and mental exertion. And one reason for feeling fatigue is not getting enough oxygen through our breath. The good news is, it’s easy to rectify this situation through breathing exercises to learn how to breathe properly again.
How to Breathe Properly
Benefits of Breathing Properly
• Reduces Stress
Breathing exercises are an effective way to reduce stress. It just requires practice and commitment on your part in order to achieve results. Shift your awareness to your breath whenever you’re facing a stressful situation. The long-term benefits of proper breathing are well worth the effort; a person with a relaxed body and mind is less prone to health issues.
• Clears the Mind
Paying too much attention to negative thoughts can cause anxiety and unhappiness. Breathing influences physiology, moods, and thought processes. If you’re feeling a bit anxious and need something to calm you down, focusing on breathing can help you relax and bring clarity to your mind.
Breathing is an important aspect of yoga and meditation. You can achieve an enlightened state by just paying attention to the rising and falling of your breath. Focus on breathing in and breathing out, and feel what it’s like to be dimensionless. By doing so, you can relax and change your state of awareness.
1. Stimulating Breath
This exercise is adapted from yoga breathing techniques, with the goal of raising energy and alertness.
- Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose with your mouth closed. Your in and out breaths should be as short as possible but equal in duration. This breathing exercise can be noisy.
- Try for 3 in and out breath cycles/second. This produces a fast movement of the diaphragm. Breathe normally after every cycle.
On your first try, do not do more than 15 seconds. Each time you do this breathing exercise, you can increase the time by 5 seconds until you reach one minute.
If done properly, the Stimulating Breath will make you may feel invigorated, comparable to the feeling you get after a good workout. Try this breathing exercise the next time you want an energy boost.
2. 4-7-8 Exercise
The 4-7-8 exercise is simple, doesn’t require any equipment, and can be done anywhere. Sit with your back straight. You’ll be exhaling through your mouth.
- Exhale completely thru your mouth, creating a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose to a count of 4.
- Hold your breath to a count of 7.
- Exhale thru the mouth, creating a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
- This is one breath. Inhale again and repeat the cycle 9 more times for a total of 10 breaths.
With this breathing exercise, inhale quietly thru the nose and exhale audibly thru the mouth. Exhalation will take twice as long as inhalation. If you’re finding it difficult to hold your breath, you can speed up the exercise but keep the ratio of 4:7:8. After a while of doing this exercise, you’ll notice your lung capacity increases and you will be able to hold your breath longer.
This exercise is subtle at first, but gains in strength with repetition. Do this twice a day. If you feel lightheaded the first time you try it, don’t be too concerned; it will pass. Once you master this technique, you can use it whenever you’re under stress. You can also use it to help you sleep better.
3. Breath Counting
Breath counting is a simple technique used in Zen practice. Sit with your spine straight and your head slightly inclined forward. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Breathe naturally, quiet and slow.
- To begin this exercise, count to 1 as you exhale.
- Next time you exhale, count to 2, and so on up to 5.
- Afterwards, begin a new cycle, counting 1 on the next exhalation.
Count only when you exhale. Try to do 10 minutes of this breathing exercise.
Breathing is something that we can control and regulate. Try these breathing exercises to reduce stress, clear your mind, and help you achieve enlightenment. They are easy to perform and can be done anywhere. Within a few days of doing these exercises, you will start to notice positive effects on your physical and mental health.