10 Breathing Exercises to Try: For Stress, Training, and Lung Capacity (2023)

If you’re dealing with high levels of stress or anxiety, there are several types of breathing techniques that may help you feel calmer and more relaxed. It’s easy to get started. All you need is a quiet space where you can pay attention to your breathing.

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Breathing exercises don’t have to take a lot of time out of your day. It’s just about setting aside time to pay attention to your breathing. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Begin with just 5 minutes a day, and increase your time as the exercise becomes easier and more comfortable.
  • If 5 minutes feels too long, start with just 2 minutes.
  • Practice multiple times a day. Schedule set times or practice conscious breathing as you feel the need.

Read on to learn how to do 10 different breathing exercises. You may find that certain respiratory exercises appeal to you right away.

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This simple breathing technique makes you slow down your breathing pace by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath.

You can practice pursed lip breathing at any time. It may be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing.

Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin so that you can correctly learn the breathing pattern.

To do it:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
  3. Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle.
  4. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

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Diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing) can help you use your diaphragm properly.

(Video) Breathing Exercise to Increase Lung Capacity - Follow Along to Guided Breathwork

A 2020 meta-analysis shows this type of breathing is particularly helpful in people with breathing challenges due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart problems, or cancer.

It may also help reduce stress and help with challenges related to eating disorders, constipation, high blood pressure, migraine episodes, and other health conditions.

Practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times daily.

When you begin, you may feel tired, but over time the technique should become easier and should feel more natural.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
  2. You may place a pillow under your knees for support.
  3. Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  4. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
  5. Keep your other hand as still as possible.
  6. Exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your abdominal muscles, keeping your upper hand completely still.

You can place a book on your abdomen to make the exercise more difficult. Once you learn how to do belly breathing lying down, you can increase the difficulty by trying it while sitting in a chair. You can then practice the technique while performing your daily activities.

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This deep breathing technique uses imagery or focus words and phrases.

You can choose a focus word that makes you smile, feel relaxed, or is simply neutral. Examples include peace, let go, or relax, but it can be any word that suits you to focus on and repeat through your practice.

As you build up your breath focus practice, you can start with a 10-minute session. Gradually increase the duration until your sessions are at least 20 minutes.

To do it:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.
  2. Bring your awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you’re breathing.
  3. Alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times. Notice any differences between normal breathing and deep breathing. Notice how your abdomen expands with deep inhalations.
  4. Note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing.
  5. Practice your deep breathing for a few minutes.
  6. Place one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed, and notice how it rises with each inhale and falls with each exhale.
  7. Let out a loud sigh with each exhale.
  8. Begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation.
  9. You can imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body. Mentally say, “Inhaling peace and calm.”
  10. Imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety. You can say to yourself, “Exhaling tension and anxiety.”

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(Video) Guided Wim Hof Method Breathing

Lion’s breath is an energizing yoga breathing practice that is said to relieve tension in your chest and face.

It’s also known in yoga as Lion’s Pose or Simhasana in Sanskrit.

To do this:

  1. Come into a comfortable seated position. You can sit back on your heels or cross your legs.
  2. Press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide.
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose and open your eyes wide.
  4. At the same time, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin.
  5. Contract the muscles at the front of your throat as you exhale out through your mouth by making a long “haaa” sound.
  6. You can turn your gaze to look at the space between your eyebrows or the tip of your nose.
  7. Do this breath 2 to 3 times.

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Alternate nostril breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in Sanskrit, is a breathing practice for relaxation.

Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and lower heart rate.

Nadi Shodhana is best practiced on an empty stomach. Avoid the practice if you’re feeling sick or congested. Keep your breath smooth and even throughout the practice.

To do this:

  1. Choose a comfortable seated position.
  2. Lift your right hand toward your nose, pressing your first and middle fingers down toward your palm and leaving your other fingers extended.
  3. After an exhale, use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril.
  4. Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril with your right pinky and ring fingers.
  5. Release your thumb and exhale out through your right nostril.
  6. Inhale through your right nostril and then close this nostril.
  7. Release your fingers to open your left nostril and exhale through this side.
  8. This is one cycle.
  9. Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes.
  10. Finish your session with an exhale on the left side.

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Equal breathing is known as Sama Vritti in Sanskrit. This breathing technique focuses on making your inhales and exhales the same length. Making your breath smooth and steady can help bring about balance and equanimity.

Research on older adults with high blood pressure showed that this technique may help improve mental well-being and increase the oxygen supply to the brain and lungs.

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You should find a breath length that is not too easy and not too difficult. You also don’t want it to be too fast in order to maintain it throughout the practice. Usually, this is between 3 and 5 counts.

Once you get used to equal breathing while seated, you can do it during your yoga practice or other daily activities.

To do it:

  1. Choose a comfortable seated position.
  2. Breathe in and out through your nose.
  3. Count during each inhale and exhale to make sure they are even in duration. Alternatively, choose a word or short phrase to repeat during each inhale and exhale.
  4. You can add a slight pause for breath retention after each inhale and exhale if you feel comfortable. (Normal breathing involves a natural pause.)
  5. Continue practicing this breath for at least 5 minutes.

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Resonant breathing, also known as coherent breathing, is when you breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute. You can achieve this rate by inhaling and exhaling for a count of 5.

Breathing at this rate maximizes your heart rate variability (HRV), reduces stress, and, according to one 2017 study, can reduce symptoms of depression when combined with Iyengar yoga.

To do this:

  1. Inhale for a count of 5.
  2. Exhale for a count of 5.
  3. Continue this breathing pattern for at least a few minutes.

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This yoga breathing practice helps you lower your body temperature and relax your mind.

Slightly extend your breath in length but don’t force it. Since you inhale through your mouth during Sitali breath, you may want to choose a place to practice that’s free of any allergens that affect you and air pollution.

To do this:

(Video) Wim Hof Method Guided Breathing for Beginners (3 Rounds Slow Pace)

  1. Choose a comfortable seated position.
  2. Stick out your tongue and curl your tongue to bring the outer edges together.
  3. If your tongue doesn’t do this, you can purse your lips.
  4. Inhale through your mouth.
  5. Exhale out through your nose.
  6. Continue breathing like this for up to 5 minutes.

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Deep breathing helps to relieve shortness of breath by preventing air from getting trapped in your lungs and helping you to breathe in fresher air. It may help you to feel more relaxed and centered.

To do this:

  1. While standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand.
  2. Take a deep inhalation through your nose.
  3. Retain your breath for a count of 5.
  4. Slowly release your breath by exhaling through your nose.

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This yoga breathing practice’s unique sensation helps create instant calm and is especially soothing around your forehead.

Some people use humming bee breath to relieve frustration, anxiety, and anger. Research shows it may help reduce your heart rate, think more clearly, and feel less irritable or stressed.

Of course, you’ll want to practice it in a place where you’re free to make a humming sound.

To do this:

  1. Choose a comfortable seated position.
  2. Close your eyes and relax your face.
  3. Place your first fingers on the tragus cartilage that partially covers your ear canal.
  4. Inhale and gently press your fingers into the cartilage as you exhale.
  5. Keeping your mouth closed, make a loud humming sound.
  6. Continue for as long as is comfortable.

The takeaway

(Video) Breathing Exercises & Pranayamas to improve Lung Capacity | Daily Practice | Yogalates with Rashmi

You can try most of these breath exercises right away. Take the time to experiment with different types of breathing techniques. Dedicate a certain amount of time at least a few times per week. You can do these exercises throughout the day.

Check in with your doctor if you have any medical concerns or take medications. If you want to learn more about breathing practices, you can consult a respiratory therapist or a yoga teacher who specializes in breathing practices. Discontinue the practice if you experience any feelings of discomfort or agitation.


10 Breathing Exercises to Try: For Stress, Training, and Lung Capacity? ›

Breathe in through your nose and pull air down into your stomach where your hands are. Try to spread your fingers apart with your breath. Slowly exhale your breath* through your nose. Repeat deep breaths for one minute.

What are the best breathing exercises for the lungs? ›

Breathe in through your nose and pull air down into your stomach where your hands are. Try to spread your fingers apart with your breath. Slowly exhale your breath* through your nose. Repeat deep breaths for one minute.

Which exercises help with breath control and capacity? ›

Slowly bend down at the waist, pushing air out of your lungs. Then, slowly stand back upright and inhale until your lungs are filled to maximum capacity. Hold your breath for 20 seconds, or for as long as you can. While holding your breath, gently raise your arms above your head.

Can you regenerate lung capacity? ›

Recent studies have shown that the respiratory system has an extensive ability to respond to injury and regenerate lost or damaged cells. The unperturbed adult lung is remarkably quiescent, but after insult or injury progenitor populations can be activated or remaining cells can re-enter the cell cycle.

Does holding breath increase lung capacity? ›

Individuals can increase their lung capacity by practicing holding their breath for longer periods. In addition to the recreational or professional benefits of an increased lung capacity, a person may experience additional health benefits from breath-holding.

What makes lung capacity worse? ›

There are several natural body changes that happen as you get older that may cause a decline in lung capacity. Muscles like the diaphragm can get weaker. Lung tissue that helps keep your airways open can lose elasticity, which means your airways can get a little smaller.

How do I build my lung capacity? ›

Deep breathing exercises may help increase lung capacity. For instance, the British Lung Foundation say that deep breathing can help clear mucus from the lungs after pneumonia, allowing more air to circulate. To perform this exercise: Breathe deeply 5–10 times, then cough strongly a couple of times, and repeat.

How to do deep breathing for stress relief? ›

Breathing exercises for stress
  1. Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  2. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Breathe in gently and regularly. ...
  4. Then let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.

What is 444 breathing? ›

Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head. Be conscious of how the air fills your lungs and stomach. Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale for another count of four. Hold your breath again for a count of four.

What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique for? ›

The 4-7-8 breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. People may find it helps manage anxiety. This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep. It is a form of pranayama, which is the practice of breath regulation.

What is the 4 7 9 breathing method? ›

The 4-7-8 technique is a relaxation exercise that involves breathing in for four counts, holding that breath for seven counts and exhaling for eight counts, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, via email.

What are the five breathing exercises? ›

Breathing exercises
  • Box breathing. Prior to beginning, sit with your back in a comfortable chair, with your feet planted firmly on the floor. ...
  • 4-7-8 breathing. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. ...
  • Pursed lip breathing. ...
  • Diaphragmatic breathing. ...
  • Alternate nostril breathing.
Dec 30, 2021

What is the best vitamin for lung health? ›

The bottom line

Taking certain dietary supplements, including, vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s, zinc, and selenium may also help promote lung health, especially among those with conditions that affect the lungs, such as COPD, asthma, and certain forms of cancer.

Can weak lungs get better? ›

Both aerobic activities and muscle-strengthening activities can benefit your lungs. Aerobic activities like walking, running or jumping rope give your heart and lungs the kind of workout they need to function efficiently.

Can weak lungs be healed? ›

The lungs' large surface area exposes the organ to a continual risk of damage from pathogens, toxins or irritants; however, lung damage can be rapidly healed via regenerative processes that restore its structure and function.

What happens if you hold your breath everyday? ›

Doing so for too much longer can decrease oxygen flow to the brain, causing fainting, seizures and brain damage. In the heart, a lack of oxygen can cause abnormalities of rhythm and affect the pumping action of the heart. It can damage your kidneys and liver as well.

How long does it take to increase lung capacity? ›

How long does it take to increase lung capacity? It usually takes several weeks of regular breathing exercises or increased physical activity to see an improvement in symptoms. However, some people may see results sooner.

How long can a Navy SEAL hold their breath? ›

Navy SEALs can hold their breath underwater for two to three minutes or more. Breath-holding drills are typically used to condition a swimmer or diver and to build confidence when going through high-surf conditions at night, said Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL and best-selling author of the book “Among Heroes.”

What 3 things may worsen a person's lung function? ›

Secondhand smoke, chemicals in the home and workplace, mold and radon all can cause or worsen lung disease. You can take steps to improve your indoor air quality.

What 3 foods can irritate the lungs? ›

Lung-Damaging Foods to Avoid
  • White Bread. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread should be avoided, as it takes more work for the lungs to metabolize them. ...
  • Potato Chips. Potato chips are filled with salt and saturated fat, two things that are detrimental to lung health. ...
  • Chocolate. ...
  • Beer. ...
  • Cold Cuts.

What builds greater lung capacity? ›

Exercising Will Increase Your Lung Capacity

Moderate exercise includes brisk walking as well as running, jogging, and other cardiovascular activities. In fact, regular workouts can increase the amount of air you can take into your lungs by 5 to 15 percent. This can improve endurance and reduce breathlessness overall.

What is the best position to sleep in for breathing problems? ›

However, some sleep positions, like back sleeping, may cause or worsen certain breathing problems. Experts typically recommend sleeping on the side as the best position for breathing problems like snoring and pauses in breathing caused by obstructive sleep apnea.

What is the best time to do breathing exercise? ›

"You want to try them when you're breathing OK, and then later on when you're more comfortable, you can use them when you're short of breath." Ideally, you should practice both exercises about 5 to 10 minutes every day.

What is the secret breathing technique? ›

Box Breathing is a technique where you take slow, deep breaths while counting to four while you breathe in, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. Start by relaxing your whole body and be seated if possible. Sit upright, and then slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs.

What is the 5 5 7 breathing technique? ›

Catherine Petit Wu, an executive coach in New York City who specializes in working with high achievers, offered this tip for a deep-belly breathing exercise known as the “5-5-7.” Sit with your feet on the floor, in a comfortable position. Inhale for a count of 5. Hold your breath for 5. Exhale for 7.

What is Navy SEAL breathing technique? ›

To practice box breathing

Hold your breath for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Repeat until the alarm sounds.

Why do Navy SEALs use box breathing? ›

Highly trained military individuals use box breathing — also called “the Navy SEAL breathing technique” — to steel their nerves and focus before entering high-pressure situations. So do professional athletes, police officers, and nurses.

What is the golden rule of breathing? ›

It's easy to remember: inhale down, exhale up.

What is the 5 2 5 breathing method? ›

5-2-5 Count: Using your stomach, inhale for a count of 5 seconds. Then, at your maximal point of inhalation (the point where you feel you can't breathe in any more) hold your breath for a count of 2 seconds. Then, exhale all the built up air over another count of 5 seconds.

What is 5 2 7 breathing? ›

For two minutes before answering the questions, the control group relaxed while the breathing exercise group practiced breathing in a 5-2-7 pattern, according to the instructions: Inhale, count to five. Hold breath after inhaling, count to two. Exhale, count to seven.

What is the 4 2 4 breathing technique? ›

1. Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds) 2. Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds 3. Exhale slowly through the mouth (for about 4 seconds) 4.

What is the 7 11 breathing exercise? ›

Breathe in for a count of 7, then breathe out for a count of 11. Continue for 5 - 10 minutes or longer if you can, and enjoy the calming effect. Tips to make the most of the exercise: Make sure you're doing deep 'diaphragmatic breathing' rather than shallower lung breathing.

What is 5 4 3 2 1 breathing technique? ›

This technique asks you to find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Using this with someone who feels anxious will help to calm them down and reduce their feelings of anxiety.

What is 10 10 10 breathing exercise? ›

Breathe naturally for a few rounds. You can start with a breath ratio of 5:5 and increase by 1:1 every round until you reach 10:10, and then go back down by 1:1, finishing where you started. With the same effort of your natural inhalation, inhale for five seconds, and then exhale for five seconds.

What is 4 6 4 6 breathing technique? ›

The technique in a nutshell

We call it the 4:6 (read 'four six') breathing technique: breathe in for 4 seconds; breathe out for 6 seconds. That's it. There's no app, special mantra or convoluted ritual. Just sit down, breathe, and benefit.

Why is my lung capacity so low? ›

There are several natural body changes that happen as you get older that may cause a decline in lung capacity. Muscles like the diaphragm can get weaker. Lung tissue that helps keep your airways open can lose elasticity, which means your airways can get a little smaller.

How can I expand my lungs fast? ›

Deep breathing exercises may help increase lung capacity. For instance, the British Lung Foundation say that deep breathing can help clear mucus from the lungs after pneumonia, allowing more air to circulate. To perform this exercise: Breathe deeply 5–10 times, then cough strongly a couple of times, and repeat.

What causes low lung volume? ›

Restrictive lung disease, a decrease in the total volume of air that the lungs are able to hold, is often due to a decrease in the elasticity of the lungs themselves or caused by a problem related to the expansion of the chest wall during inhalation.

What can I drink to cleanse my lungs? ›

Drink Green Tea

Cleaning your lungs may be as simple as sipping hot tea—green tea, specifically. Green tea is packed with inflammation-reducing antioxidants, and some research suggests that it may help protect lung tissue from the harmful impacts of smoke inhalation.

What foods help repair lungs? ›

Foods to Promote Lung Health
  • Apples. Due to the presence of the antioxidant quercetin, apples have been proven to reduce lung decline and even reduce lung damage caused by smoking. ...
  • Beets. ...
  • Pumpkin. ...
  • Tomatoes. ...
  • Leafy Greens.

What does low lung capacity feel like? ›

The symptoms of reduced lung capacity include feeling tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. You may feel as if you are unable to draw in a full breath or cough if you attempt to fill your lungs. You may have more difficulty when exercising or feel like you cannot catch your breath.

What are symptoms of low lung function? ›

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish.
  • Frequent respiratory infections.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or legs.
Apr 15, 2020

Does walking increase lung capacity? ›

Spending 30 minutes a day, five days a week doing some endurance or aerobic activities is great for improving lung function and health. For instance, you could try: Brisk walking or jogging.

What is the 4 7 8 breathing technique? ›

If you can, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose to the count of four. Hold the breath to the count of seven. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.

What is considered poor lung capacity? ›

† Normal lung function: FVC% ≥ 80% and FEV1/FVC ≥ 70%. ‡ Poor lung function: FVC% < 80% and FEV1/FVC ≥ 70% or FEV1/FVC < 70%.

What is the treatment of lung volume loss? ›

Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) is a surgical procedure to remove diseased, emphysematous lung tissue. This procedure reduces the size of an over-inflated lung and allows the expansion (growth) of the remaining, often more functional lung.

What are 4 factors affecting lung volume? ›

Age, gender, body composition, and ethnicity are factors affecting the different ranges of lung capacity among individuals. TLC rapid increases from birth to adolescence and plateaus at around 25 years old.

Can lungs heal after 40 years of smoking? ›

While lung tissue cells do regenerate, there's no way a smoker can return to having the lungs of a non-smoker. At best, they will carry a few scars from their time smoking, and at worst, they're stuck with certain breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives.

Does lemon water cleanse the lungs? ›

Although cleansing and detox drinks have become increasingly popular, with concoctions of lemon juice, honey, spices, and other herbs circulating social media, there is nothing you can eat or drink that can cleanse your lungs. None of these drinks have any supportive evidence whatsoever to prove their effectiveness.

What is the best anti-inflammatory for lungs? ›

Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective medications you can take to reduce airway swelling and mucus production. The benefits of using these medicines include: Fewer symptoms and asthma flare-ups. Decreased use of short-acting beta agonists (reliever, or rescue) inhaler.


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