In the pursuit of being happy and well off, we have somehow left ourselves in a vicious circle. So many issues, including stress, long hours at work, and lack of sleep have overpowered our sense of calm. We are all EXHAUSTED and WORKED UP.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of ways with which we can regain mindfulness. Here, we will talk about some of the best breathing exercises to help you cope with stress, anxiety, and many more concerns while increasing your lung capacity.
11 Healthy Breathing Exercises
Have you noticed how your breathing patterns when you are relaxed? Breathing exercises, when done right, can help your mind and body in many ways. Right from keeping your blood pressure in check to relieving stress, there is so much healing power in your breathing ins and outs.
So, are you ready to practice some age-old breathing techniques? Let us help you get rid of the side-effects of today’s quick-fix lifestyle with a list of the 11 best breathing exercises.
#1 Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
Diaphragmatic or belly breathing is a breathing technique that involves your diaphragm and helps you use it correctly. Make sure to practice it when you are in a rested position. In the beginning, you may feel exhausted. However, with practice, you would be able to control your breath easily and more naturally.
Steps to do diaphragmatic breathing:
- Lie down or sit in a comfortable position.
- Keep one hand on the upper part of your chest.
- Keep the other hand under the ribcage.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose.
- Finally, breathe out through pursed lips.
Duration/Frequency: Do it for 5 minutes to 10 minutes, three to four times every day.
#2 Hands In & Out Breathing Exercise
Hands in and out breathing is an easy breathing technique that can help you increase your lung capacity. It also helps in dealing with many lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, back pain, digestive issues, and heart diseases.
Steps to do hands-in-and-out-breathing exercise:
- Stand in a mountain pose or tadasana (a standing pose).
- Draw both your palms together.
- Inhale while spreading your arms to your sides horizontally.
- Exhale while you bring your arms to your front while one palm touches the other.
Duration/Frequency: Practice hands-in-and-out-breathing asana ten times (rounds).
#3 Tiger Breathing Exercise
Tiger breathing exercise is a type of breathing exercise that resembles the way tigers breathe. It helps to strengthen your arm muscles, thighs, and knees, improving your digestive health, burning fat around your waist, hip, and thighs, and toning your spine, among others.
Steps to do Tiger Breathing Exercise:
- Sit in Vajrasana (thunderbolt).
- Separate both knees by a distance of one arm.
- Bend forward and keep your palms facing the ground at a one-arm distance from the knees.
- Make sure that your foot, knee, and palm are in a straight line.
- Inhale while raising your head towards the ceiling.
- Stay there, look at the ceiling.
- Make sure to arch your spine (concave).
- Exhale while arching your spine in the upward direction and lean your head downward (chin to the chest).
Duration/Frequency: Repeat 5 times
#4 Ujjayi Pranayama Breathing Exercise
Ujjayi breathing exercise is one of the most common forms of breath-control yoga or pranayama. It focuses on your breath to calm your mind down. It also helps in overriding distracting thoughts. And, as it is a breathing exercise, it also improves your lung capacity.
Steps to do Ujjayi Pranayama Breathing Exercise:
As you breathe in and breath out, do the following steps:
- Do not open your mouth.
- Compress your throat in such a way that you produce a rushing sound while breathing.
- Control your inhales and exhales with your diaphragm.
- Make sure that the duration of your inhales and exhales are equal.
Duration/Frequency: 12 cycles regularly
#5 Moorcha Pranayama Breathing Exercise
Moorcha in Sanskrit means fainting. Practicing this yogic breathing technique creates dizziness in the head, and you tend to feel lightheaded as if there is no sense left in you. This yogasana improves mental energy and brings in a sense of calm and euphoria.
Steps to do Moorcha Pranayam Breathing Exercise:
- Sit comfortably
- Relax your body
- Place your hands on your knees and relax your shoulders
- Sit straight so that your head and spine make a straight line
- Roll your tongue towards your nasal cavity (soft palate)
- Bend your head back and start breathing in through your nose
- Bring your gaze to the middle of your eyebrows
- Lock your elbows while straightening your arms
- Press your palms on your knees
- Now, retain your breath at the climax of your inhale and lock your chin
- Breath out slowly when you feel very dizzy and relax
Duration/Frequency: Practice it a couple of times during the day’s early hours
#6 Shitali Pranayama Breathing Exercise
Shitali pranayama or cooling breath pranayama is a yoga technique that rejuvenates your mind and body while purifying your blood. As it reduces the excess heat in your body, it helps you cope with depression, fear, and anxiety in a better way.
Steps to do Shitali Pranayama Breathing Exercise:
- Sit comfortably in the cross-legged posture
- Relax and close your eyes
- Prepare your body by inhaling and exhaling a couple of times
- Bring your tongue out and roll it
- If you cannot curl your tongue, pucker up your lips and make a small ‘o’ with it
- Inhale through the rolled tongue or the pursed lips slowly and smoothly to feel a cooling sensation
- After breathing in, put your tongue in and breath out through your nose
- 15 sets of shitali pranayama are enough
- Around 60 rounds during summer
#7 Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise
If you are looking for an instant way to de-stress, you have found your go-to breathing technique. Bhramari pranayama got its name from Bhramari, the black Indian bee. It is one of the most effective breathing techniques and helps you avoid frustration, irritation, and anxiety. The best part – you can do it anytime, anywhere.
Steps to do Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise:
- Sit comfortably in a preferred asana.
- Relax your body and close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath.
- Close the flaps of your ears with your thumbs.
- Keep your forefinger above your eyebrows.
- Place the remaining fingers on your eyes.
- Focus your mind between the eyebrows.
- Exhale slowly through the nose while making a humming sound (AUM).
Duration/Frequency: Repeat this asana five times
#8 Anulom Vilom Breathing Exercise
Anulom Vilom is a popular yogic breathing exercise that involves breathing in and breathing out. You need to close one nostril while breathing in and the other one while breathing out. Then you need to reverse and repeat it. This breathing technique brings many physical and mental benefits, including improved lung capacity, blood circulation, and stress reduction.
Steps to Anulom Vilom Breathing Exercise:
- Sit comfortably
- Close your eyes
- Relax, but make sure that your neck and spine are in a straight line
- Place your wrists on your knees
- Keep your right thumb on your nostril (right) and bring your ring finger on the other nostril (left)
- Close your right nostril and inhale through the left one
- Make sure that your breaths are slow and deep
- Now, release, reverse your hands, and repeat
Duration/Frequency: To begin with, start slowly and gradually increase your timing
#9 Kevali Pranayama (So-Ham) Breathing Exercise
Also known as So-Hum and Hamsa, Kevali pranayama is to identify yourself with the ultimate, the universe. In light of meditation, you can break the word Sohum into two parts. ‘So’ will denote breathing-in, and ‘Hum’ will resemble the sound of breathing out. When practicing this pranayama, repeat the breathing mantra in your mind to get the best out of it.
Steps to do Kevali Pranayama Breathing Exercise:
- Get yourself comfortable in a silent corner of your home.
- Sit comfortably and relax your body.
- Now, inhale and exhale while observing your breath.
- Repeat the mantra mentally and listen to the sound of your inhales (So) and exhales (Hum).
#10 Kapalbhati Breathing Exercise
When you practice pranayama, around 80% of the toxic chemicals present in your body release with your exhales. Therefore, practicing kapalbhati detoxifies your body from within and brings a shine on your forehead, the literal meaning of kapalbhati – Kapal (forehead) and Bhati (radiate).
Steps to do Kapalbhati Breathing Exercise:
- Sit in a comfortable position and keep your spine straight.
- Keep your hands facing towards the sky while resting on your knees.
- Take a deep breath.
- When you breathe out, pull your stomach (navel) towards your backbone as much as you can.
- Once you relax your abdominal muscles, your breath will automatically flow towards your lungs.
Duration/Frequency: 20 breaths make one round of the breathing exercise. You can practice two more rounds of the same, according to your needs.
#11 BhastrikaBreathing Exercise
Bhastrika is a yogic breathing technique in which you need to do forceful and fast breath in and breathe out. It also involves your diaphragm’s movement, thus increasing the capacity of your lungs.
Steps to do Bhastrika Breathing Exercise:
- Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position (recommended pose – vajrasana).
- Take a deep breath and raise your hands.
- Open up your fists.
- Now, breathe out forcefully and take your arms next to your shoulder.
- Close your fists now.
- Continue this process 20 times (1 round).
- Keep your palms on your thighs and relax.
- Take normal breaths.
Duration/Frequency: 2 rounds are enough
Different types of yogic breath controlling techniques bring a wide range of benefits to you. However, not everyone is the same. Therefore, it is always wise to seek expert advice before getting started with any form of breathing exercise.
Best Breathing Techniques for Different Workouts
Breathing properly is essential during exercise. And while most of us believe that there is little to learn about a function as natural as inhaling and exhaling, when you’re working out, there’s more to keep in mind than just breathing in or out.
Proper breathing is essential for delivering oxygen to our bodies, which in turn improves performance during a workout. Pacing your breath can help you exercise longer, prevent aches and pains and also releases tension. However, since most exercises are undertaken at different speeds, here’s a look at the best breathing techniques for different workouts:
Experts recommend what’s called the 2:2 rhythm — one left step, one right while breathing in and the same breathing out. Synchronising your breath to your pace will ease pressure on the diaphragm and reduce discomfort. Breathe through the mouth or nose, whatever suits you best.
To stabilise your core, and control your moves during a hard aerobic workout, it’s imperative that your muscles receive plenty of oxygen. Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. When you brace for an impact, take a deep breath and brace your core.
#3 Strength training
Exhaling is the way to go while strength training, as contracting the respiratory muscles will help brace the load during heavy lifts. While bench-pressing, for instance, exhale slowly while pressing the bar, then inhale on return.
Choosing the right breathing technique is integral to executing an asana. There are two basic principles to follow – expanding movements are made on the inhalation, contracting and twisting movements are made on exhalation. No matter how difficult the pose, make sure you don’t hold your breath.
Breathing Exercise – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the best way to breathe?
A. Well, there is nothing as such. Excluding any underlying health condition, you breathe through your nose, and the air goes to your belly while expanding your stomach and filling your lungs.
Q. Is there any pilates exercise that teaches breath control?
A. Yes, one of the most popular pilates breathing practices is called The 100.
Q. What would happen if your breathing habits are poor?
A. Some possible consequences of poor breathing habits include – lack of energy, lethargy, poor focus, and sleepiness, among others.
Q. How much weight can you reduce by practicing 15-minutes of kapalbhati daily?
A. With a balanced diet and 15-minutes of kapalbhati daily, you can shed around 2 to 4 kgs in one month.
Q. Who coined the name Anulom Vilom?
A. Swami Kripalu is the person who coined the modern name Anulom Vilom.