What Are the Best Breathing Exercises?
Whether you want to diminish your stress levels or improve your lung capacity or just stay healthy, breathing exercises are the easiest way to achieve these goals. Possessing the additional benefit of not taking up too much of your time, breathing exercises can improve the quality of your life by sharpening your cognitive functions, reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing the quality of sleep, contributing to your cardiovascular health and cleansing your body.
There are different kinds of breathing exercises that range across various difficulty levels. Some of the best breathing routines that can help you reap maximum results are listed below.
- Equal Breathing
The best time to practice this breathing exercise is before going to bed. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Breathe in through the nose for four counts and breathe out through the nose for four counts – you will experience a natural resistance during exhalation. After a few days of doing this exercise, you can increase the counts per breath from four to eight. This exercise helps you when you find it difficult to fall asleep. It relaxes the mind and aids in discarding disturbing thoughts.
- Pursed Lips Breathing
This breathing exercise is one of the easiest respiratory exercises to overcome shortness of breath. Sit with your shoulders and neck relaxed and breathe in for two counts through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Purse your lips and exhale through your mouth for four counts. This exercise slows down the rate of your breathing and keeps the airways open for a longer time, making your lungs more efficient. You can use pursed lips breathing while doing strenuous physical activities to relieve breathing stress.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing encourages the correct use of the diaphragm. If you are a beginner, start this exercise by lying down with your knees slightly bent and your head elevated. Use a pillow under your head and knees to easily achieve this position. After placing one hand on your upper chest and the other slightly below your rib cage, breathe in slowly with your stomach pushing against your palm. Exhale using the pursed lips technique. The hand on your chest must remain still during both inhalation and exhalation. After mastering this exercise, you can practice it while being seated.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
Popularly known by its Sanskrit name nadi shodhana pranayama, this exercise clears the body and mind of stress, increases the circulation of oxygen, detoxifies the body, maintains internal temperature and evokes a sense of serenity. Sit in a comfortable position and loosen your body by relaxing your hands, shoulders and neck. Your left hand should be placed on your left knee either with the palm facing the sky or with the thumb and index finger slightly touching. The tip of the index and middle fingers of your right hand should gently touch the area between your eyebrows while the thumb and ring finger of the same hand is placed on your right and left nostrils respectively. The little finger of your right hand should be placed near the ring finger on the left nostril. Begin by exhaling and then close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, close the left nostril with your ring finger and little finger, and hold your breath for two counts. Now release your thumb and breathe out through the right nostril. Breathe in from the right nostril, close it with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril as you release the little and ring fingers. This is one cycle of this exercise. Repeat it nine times and end the exercise by exhaling through the left nostril.
- Lion’s Breath
This breathing exercise improves your cardiovascular functions and releases stress from your face, jaw and chest. It also alleviates muscle tension and creates a calming effect. Be seated in a comfortable position – you can sit cross-legged or on your knees or in any position that makes you feel relaxed the most. Place your palms on your knees or the floor and widely spread your fingers. With your eyes wide open, take a deep breath through your nose and open your mouth wide. Stick out your tongue, stretching it down towards your chin. Exhale forcefully by making a prolonged “ha” sound emerging from your abdomen. Focus your gaze on a specific point like the tip of your nose or the area between your eyebrows while doing this exercise. Repeat this technique three to four times.
These are the five best breathing exercises that you can integrate into your daily routine. Start devoting five minutes a day to do these exercises and gradually increase the time you practice to half an hour each day. You can also engage in most of these breathing routines during office breaks or while travelling. Within a week of regular practice, you will experience noticeable positive results as your mind and body become more efficient and detoxified.