Breathing Exercises for A Healthy Mind & Body

Aug 3, 2022

 by Lateef Johnson

You won’t believe how practicing proper breathing exercises can benefit you! Not only can it take your stress level down a notch but there’s a whole list of benefits that help you both physically and mentally. 

Here are just a few benefits to practice breathing exercises weekly: 

  • Improves Immunity
  • Strengthens lungs
  • Calms anxiety
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Decreases toxicity in the body
  • Helps the digestive system
  • Good for cardiovascular health
  • Boosts concentration and focus
  • Gives your skin a healthy glow
  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Strengthens the body and joints

If any of these would be beneficial to you, we offer a variety of breathing exercises to help with your fitness & wellbeing. 

Breathing Exercises

Some breathing exercises can make you feel dizzy or a little lightheaded the first couple of times you do them.

It’s good to start with just a few breaths and gradually work up to 5 or more minutes of focused breathing.

Belly & Nostril Breathing 

How to do it: 

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat. You can rest your head on a pillow if it feels more comfortable. 

  • If you’d prefer, sit tall in a chair with your chest upright and your shoulders and neck relaxed. 

  • Put one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs. 

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, thinking of filling your lungs all the way down to your belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  • As you exhale through your lips, tighten your abdominal muscles so that they move inward, with the hand on your belly returning to its starting position. 

  • Practice this for 5-10 breaths a couple of times a day if possible.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

How to do it:

  • Sit tall with relaxed shoulders. 
  • Put your right thumb on your right nostril, and inhale through your left nostril. 
  • Put your right ring finger on your left nostril, and exhale through your right nostril. 
  • Inhale through your right nostril. 
  • Place your right thumb on your right nostril, and exhale through your left nostril. 
  • This equals 1 round of alternate nostril breathing.
  • Repeat for a total of 2-5 minutes.

Breath Focus Technique

This is wonderful for meditation & relaxation. It incorporates several forms of breathing, along with words or phrases to bring awareness to your breath in a meditative, relaxing session. Choose a focus word or phrase that makes you feel relaxed or content. 

How to do it:

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable place. 
  • Notice your breathing but try not to change how you breathe. Just be aware of the breath flowing in and out of your body. 
  • Take a few deep belly breaths, paying attention to the expansion and contraction of your belly. 
  • Return to breathing normally, and notice any differences in how you feel now: are your shoulders and neck more relaxed? 
  • Take a few shallow breaths, and return your breathing to normal. How do you feel? Do you notice any different sensations? 
  • Now it’s time to use your focus word or phrase for 8-10 long, slow belly breaths. As you inhale, think about your focus word, and as you exhale, let out a sigh.
  • Gradually work up to using this technique for 5-10 minutes or longer for deeper meditation.

Wim Hof Breathing Method

This is a great technique for stress reduction, better sleep, and mental clarity. Wim Hof a well-known extreme athlete, and motivational speaker who, among other things, has trained his body to withstand freezing cold temperatures. He credits his breathing method with being one cornerstone of his health protocol. 

How to do it:

  • First, sit or lie down in a comfortable position that allows your lungs to expand and contract. Close your eyes and relax your mind, focusing on your breath.

  • Take in a big breath through your nose.

  • Exhale naturally through your mouth.

  • Repeat for 30 breaths. 

  • Then, exhale to about 90% and hold your breath for as long as you can. 

  • When your body needs to take a breath, inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds before releasing. This equals one round of Wim Hof Breathing. 

  • Repeat for 3 total rounds.

4-7-8 Breathing

This is great for deeper relaxation & improved sleep. It’s a surprisingly effective breathing method by Dr. Andrew Weil that can help with deep relaxing and falling asleep.

How to do it: 

  • Find a place to sit or lie down. Your chest and belly should be able to expand and contract without being constricted.

  • Rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind your top front teeth. Keep it here while you’re practicing the breathing method. Note: this can be a challenge until you get used to it! 
  • Open your lips and exhale completely, making a whooshing sound. It can help to purse your lips slightly. 
  • Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  • Open your lips and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8, making another whooshing sound. 
  • Repeat the 4-7-8 pattern of breathing for a total of four rounds. You can work your way up to eight full breaths as your body gets used to deep breathing.

Navy Deal “Box” Breathing

Great for staying calm & focused, this simple breathing technique is designed to help you relax, improve your focus, and make you less prone to future stress. It’s called “box” breathing because each part of the breath is held for an equal amount of time – a count of 4. It can help you visualize that you are breathing around a box while you do this exercise. 

How to do it: 

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable spot.

  • Inhale through your nose (if possible) for 4 seconds.

  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

  • Exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.

  • Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

  • Repeat the inhale-hold-exhale-hold pattern a total of 4 times, working for up to 5 minutes.

Coherent Breathing

Great for reducing stress, this is a very simple breathing exercise that is linked with less stress and improved heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is the variation in time between each heartbeat. People with higher HRV may be in better cardiovascular shape and also be more resilient to stress. The goal is to slow down your breathing so that you complete 5 full breaths a minute, which boils down to inhaling and exhaling for a count of 5 seconds.

How to do it:

  • Inhale for a count of 5.

  • Exhale for a count of 5.

  • Repeat for a few minutes (start with 1-2 minutes and work up as you get used to deep breathing).

We hope the information and exercises encourage you to take a few minutes of simple self-care time each day. The more you practice, the more your body will thank you!