6 Beneficial Breathing Exercises to Try

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Belly Breathing

Best for: Relaxation, people new to breathing exercises

When you're breathing into your chest, it's easy to feel anxious and short-of-breath.  Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing., helps you learn to take fuller, deep breaths.  Set aside 3-5 minutes to practice this each day, slowly working your way up to 10 minutes. Lie down comfortably, with your head on a pillow and a pillow under your knees if comfortable.  Place one hand on your belly. As you breathe in through your nose slowly, feel your hand slowly move out.  Breathe out just as slowly, allowing your belly to fall.  Repeat.

4-7-8 Breath

Best for: Sleep & Relaxation

The 4-7-8 breath is a breathing exercise that helps to calm the nervous system, promoting relaxation.  To begin, inhale evenly through your nose for a count of 4. Hold this breath for a count of 7, and then slowly exhale for a count of 8. Begin repeating this cycle for 4 breaths, gradually working your way up for more breaths.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Best for:  Relaxation, Improved Attention

This yogi-inspired breath was created with the belief that it helps to connect the two hemispheres of the brain.  While that hasn't been proven, this breath technique has been shown to help promote relaxation and improve intention.  Begin seated comfortably, placing a blanket or pillow under your hips if it is more comfortable. Make your right hand into a "hang lose" formation so only your thumb and pinky finger are sticking up.  Use your thumb to plug your right nostril.  Inhale through the left nostril and then plug it with your pinky finger, exhaling through your right nostril. Inhale slowly through the right nostril, pause, and then plug it with your thumb, exhaling through your left nostril.  Repeat this cycle 5-10 times to start.

Breath Counting

Best for: Anxiety, or when other breathing techniques seem too overwhelming

Breath counting is a mindfulness breath technique that focuses on becoming more aware of the breath rather than trying to change it.  The counting gives you something to focus on, so this can be a very grounding technique and a great introduction to meditation.  Ensure that you're sitting comfortably, and close your eyes if you'd like. Simply count each breath - you can count on the inhale or exhale, whichever you prefer.  If you find that your mind drifts, simply start over at 1 again.

Roll Breathing

Best for: Deep Relaxation, pain management

Roll breathing is a breath technique that helps you to focus on using your lungs fully and also emphasizes the rhythm of breathing.  This technique is best easy to learn laying on your back, with your knees bent. Place your left hand gently on your belly, and your right hand on your chest.  As you inhale through your nose, notice how your left hand on your belly rises.  Exhale through your mouth, noticing how your hand falls.  Repeat this for 10 breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, paying attention to how the hand on your belly falls and rises while the hand on your chest remains still. Next, inhale slowly through your nose, this time allowing your belly to rise and then breath deeper into your upper chest, allowing your chest to expand.  Exhale through your mouth, letting your belly and then chest fall.  Repeat breathing in this way for 3-5 minutes, allowing the tension to leave your body on each exhale.

Bellows Breath

Best for: Boosting energy and improving focus

Bellow's breath, also know as Bhastrika in yoga, is a practice that helps to briefly stimulate the sympathetic nervous system which helps to boost energy and improve focus. Because this practice can have a brief impact on your blood pressure, it is not recommended if you have high blood pressure or experience feelings of faintness.

Begin seated cross-legged, sitting up tall. When you're ready, contract your diaphragm to exhale forcefully and quickly.  Immediately, inhale, allowing your abdominal to relax.  Begin by repeating for 8-10 breaths, slowly working your way up to more.