Are you looking for a way to improve your health that doesn’t involve kale smoothies or CrossFit? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a simple, free, and low-impact way to boost your well-being: breathing! Yes, that’s right, something you’re doing right now (hopefully) can be optimized to enhance your physical and mental health. In this blog post, we’ll cover five breathing techniques that can benefit your body and mind.
I. Diaphragmatic Breathing If you’ve ever taken a singing or yoga class, you might have heard about diaphragmatic breathing. But what is it? Basically, it’s a way of breathing that engages your diaphragm muscle, located below your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve oxygenation.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your belly with air, and feel your stomach expand against your hand. Exhale through your mouth, slowly and steadily, feeling your stomach contract. Repeat this pattern for several minutes, and try to focus on your breath and nothing else.
Pro tip: If you’re struggling to breathe with your diaphragm, try lying on your back with a pillow under your knees. This can help release any tension in your body and make it easier to breathe deeply.
II. Alternate Nostril Breathing This breathing technique is a bit more complicated than diaphragmatic breathing, but it’s worth the effort. Alternate nostril breathing, also called Nadi Shodhana, is a traditional yoga practice that can help balance your nervous system, improve focus, and reduce anxiety.
To perform alternate nostril breathing, sit in a comfortable position and use your right hand to control your breath. Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Then, close your left nostril with your ring finger, release your thumb, and exhale through your right nostril. Next, inhale through your right nostril, close it with your thumb, release your ring finger, and exhale through your left nostril. This is one round of alternate nostril breathing. Repeat for several minutes, focusing on your breath and the sensation of air moving through your nostrils.
Pro tip: If you’re feeling congested or have trouble breathing through your nostrils, skip this technique and try another one on this list.
III. Box Breathing Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a simple and effective way to manage stress and anxiety. The technique involves inhaling for a set count, holding your breath for the same count, exhaling for the same count, and holding your breath again for the same count.
To practice box breathing, sit in a comfortable position and inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Hold your breath for another count of four, and then repeat the process for several minutes.
Pro tip: If counting to four feels too easy or too difficult, adjust the count to match your comfort level.
IV. Kapalbhati Pranayama is a breathing technique that can help boost energy, improve digestion, and increase lung capacity. The practice involves quick, forceful exhalations through the nose, followed by passive inhalations.
To practice Kapalbhati Pranayama, sit in a comfortable position and place your hands on your knees. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and then exhale forcefully through your nose, pulling your navel towards your spine. As you exhale, your abdomen should naturally contract. Follow each exhalation with a passive inhalation. Repeat this pattern for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath and the movement of your abdomen.
Pro tip: If you feel light-headed or dizzy during Kapalbhati Pranayama, slow down or stop the practice.
V. Buteyko Breathing is a breathing technique that can help manage asthma symptoms, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. The technique involves reducing the volume of air you breathe in and out, which can increase carbon dioxide levels in your body and help regulate your breathing.
To practice Buteyko breathing, sit in a comfortable position and take a few normal breaths. Then, take a small breath in through your nose, and a small breath out through your nose. Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then take another small breath in through your nose. Exhale through your nose, but don’t empty your lungs completely. Repeat this pattern for several minutes, focusing on your breath and the sensation of air moving in and out of your nose.
Pro tip: Buteyko breathing can be challenging at first, so start with a few minutes of practice and gradually increase the duration.
Congratulations, you’ve now learned five breathing techniques that can enhance your health! Diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing, box breathing, Kapalbhati Pranayama, and Buteyko breathing all offer unique benefits and can be practiced anywhere, at any time. Remember to consult a healthcare professional before starting a new breathing practice, especially if you have a medical condition. So take a deep breath, and give these techniques a try for a healthier, happier you!