Breathing exercises are powerful tools that can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. While breathing exercises have become a hype in recent years, it goes back thousands of years in spiritual and Eastern practices, such as yoga and meditative traditions.
With a growing body of scientific research supporting their effectiveness, breathwork techniques have gained recognition for their ability to elicit physiological changes in the body. By bringing awareness to the breath and using specific techniques, you can tap into the transformative potential of your breath.
In this article, we will explore eight types of breathing exercises that are beneficial for your physical and mental health:
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing, involves breathing deeply into the diaphragm rather than shallowly into the chest. When we are stressed or anxious, our body tends to engage in chest breathing. Chest breathing is characterized by shallow breaths that primarily involve the expansion and contraction of the chest and ribcage. On the other hand, while practicing belly breathing, your abdomen expands and contracts, which means that your belly rises when you inhale and falls when you exhale.
Abdominal breathing offers several benefits. First, it encourages deeper breaths, which means more oxygen reaches the bloodstream and vital organs, promoting overall bodily function and energy. Second, it activates the body's relaxation response, reducing stress and anxiety. Third, it enhances lung capacity and efficiency, improving respiratory health. Finally, practicing abdominal breathing regularly can lead to a more natural and calming way of breathing, benefiting both physical and mental well-being.
You can practice belly breathing by following these easy steps:
This exercise can be practiced anytime, whether you're feeling overwhelmed at work, preparing for an important event, or simply want to relax after a busy day. You can practice this technique for as long as you need or until you feel relaxed.
Box breathing, equal breathing, or square breathing involves equalizing and regulating the breath through a specific pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding again. It helps reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the nervous system. Box breathing also enhances focus, making it useful for performance and managing high-pressure situations. Additionally, it regulates breathing patterns, improves oxygen exchange, and can aid in better overall respiratory health. This simple yet effective practice can be a valuable tool for both mental and physical well-being.
Follow these easy steps to practice box breathing:
Use box breathing in high-pressure situations, such as before an important presentation, during moments of stress, or when you need to regain your composure. You may practice this technique for as long as necessary or until you feel relaxed.
4-7-8 breathing is a technique that involves inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and exhaling slowly for a count of eight. It regulates the breath, activates the body's relaxation response, and helps reduce anxiety.
This breathing exercise is renowned for its various benefits, such as reducing stress, promoting better sleep, and calming the nervous system.
You can practice 4-7-8 breathing by following these easy steps:
You can do it anytime and anywhere, whether you're at home, work, or even in stressful situations. Aim for at least a few minutes of practice each day to reap its calming effects and enhance your overall well-being.
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana pranayama (subtle energy-clearing breathing technique in Sanskrit), is a yogic breathing technique that involves a specific pattern of inhalation and exhalation through alternate nostrils. This rhythmic breath feels calming and balancing, promoting a sense of inner harmony and mental clarity. Nadi shodhana is known to reduce stress, improve focus, and balance the flow of prana (energy) in the body.
Follow these steps to practice alternating nostril breathing:
You can do it anytime and anywhere, but it's especially effective during moments of stress or before meditation. A few minutes of daily practice can yield significant benefits, but it can be done for longer durations if desired, such as 5-10 minutes per session.
Heart coherence breathing, coherent breathing, or resonance breathing focuses on increasing heart rate variability (HRV) by synchronizing the heart rhythm with the breathing rate. Practicing heart coherence breathing typically involves inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly while focusing on positive emotions and maintaining a calm and peaceful state of mind. The key goal is to create a harmonious and coherent rhythm between your heart rate and your breath. This technique offers numerous benefits, including reducing stress, improving mental clarity, enhancing emotional resilience, and fostering a sense of calm.
Follow these easy steps to heart coherence breathing:
Using a biofeedback tool like moonbird can enhance your practice. Synchronizing your breath with the tactile cues provided by moonbird, whilst observing the feedback on your HRV in the app, you can fine-tune your breathing to reach a state of coherence more effectively.
Conscious connected breathing (CCB), also known as circular breathing or continuous breathwork, is a rhythmic and connected pattern of breath without pauses between inhalation and exhalation. It can lead to profound physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences. Use conscious connected breathing during dedicated breathwork sessions or workshops when you have the space and time to explore deep emotional release, personal insights, and spiritual connection.
The benefits of conscious connected breathing include stress reduction, increased energy, improved mental clarity, and enhanced emotional well-being. It is commonly used for transformative experiences and is best practiced under the guidance of a qualified practitioner or instructor. It typically feels like a gentle, natural rhythm of breathing that harmonizes the body and mind.
If you would like to try this exercise yourself, you can follow these steps:
Ideally, sessions last for about 20-30 minutes, and practitioners often incorporate it into their daily or weekly routines for maximum benefits.
For our more psychedelic fans out there, holotropic breathwork is all about using music and rapid breathing to induce an altered state of consciousness, developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof. It can be an intense and profound experience, often likened to psychedelic journeys. For this reason, this type of breathwork should also be practiced under the supervision of a qualified practitioner or instructor. It is typically conducted in a safe and supportive environment to ensure the well-being of the participant.
This practice often leads to intense and vivid experiences, including emotional release, inner exploration, and expanded awareness. Benefits may include stress reduction, emotional healing, increased creativity, and a sense of spiritual connection.
Let us explain in simple steps how this breathing technique works:
Holotropic breathing sessions can vary in length, but they often last around 2-3 hours and are best done in a safe, supportive environment with a trained facilitator. Frequency can vary, but practitioners often engage in sessions periodically to explore different aspects of their psyche and promote personal growth.
The Buteyko breathing method is a breathwork technique developed by Russian physiologist Konstantin Buteyko. It emphasizes the importance of nasal breathing and focuses on reducing over-breathing or hyperventilation. Initially, this breathing method was created as a way to help people with asthma breathe more easily.
This technique often feels calming and may initially require conscious effort, because you consciously start breathing less slowly. The benefits of the Buteyko method include improved lung function, reduced anxiety, and better sleep.
Follow these steps to practice the Buteyko breathing method:
It can be practiced daily, ideally in a quiet and relaxed setting, for about 15-20 minutes per session. You can make sessions longer once you feel comfortable doing so. And remember: consistency is key.
We invite you to explore and experiment with these breathing exercises and techniques to discover the ones that resonate with you the most. By incorporating these breathing exercises into your life, you can harness the power of your breath to promote relaxation and enhance your overall sense of well-being. The more breathwork you do, the greater the benefits will be.
Remember to practice the more intense variants of breathwork techniques, like conscious connected breathing and holotropic breathing, safely and under appropriate supervision to ensure a safe and supportive experience. Happy breathing!
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