How to Breathe

Three Methods:Performing Deep BreathingEnhancing Your Breathing with Special TechniquesImproving Breathing with Lifestyle Changes

Breathing is a basic human function, but not everyone breathes effectively, especially during stressful times. By practicing proper breathing techniques, you can reduce stress and improve your body’s overall functioning. Some good techniques to use include diaphragmatic breathing, breathing through your nose, sighing as you exhale, and clenching your fists while breathing. There are also some lifestyle changes you can make that may improve your breathing.

Method 1
Performing Deep Breathing

  1. 1
    Position yourself in a comfortable way. You might find it easier to take deep, slow breaths if you are lying down or sitting in a comfortable chair. Try laying on your back on a blanket, sofa, or on a bed. Let your arms lay loosely at your sides. You can keep your legs straight or bend your knees slightly.[1]
    • You can also use pillows to support your head and knees. Just try to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
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    Inhale through your nose. It is best to breathe in through your nose when doing deep breathing, or even just when you are breathing regularly. The process of breathing through your nose allows your body to filter out viruses and bacteria.[2]
    • To breathe through your nose, keep your mouth closed. Your automatic nervous system will continue breathing, and the breath will come through your nostrils.
    • Nasal breathing allows the body to warm and humidify any cold, dry air so that it's easier to absorb.[3]
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    Breathe deeply from the diaphragm. To tell whether or not you are breathing into your diaphragm, put one hand on your upper chest, the other hand on your belly, just below your rib cage. Breathe in slowly through your nose until you feel your belly start to rise. Try to make sure that your chest remains still, and that it is not moving upward. When your belly is as full of air as you can comfortably make it, start to tighten your stomach muscles. This will force air slowly from your diaphragm and out of your lungs.[4]
    • The diaphragm is the large, dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs. When you allow your diaphragm to expand and contract to control your breathing, you'll breathe more easily and efficiently.
    • Breathing from the diaphragm can slow your heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.[5]
    • You may get tired rather quickly from this exercise, but you will soon find that the strengthened diaphragm muscle allows for increased oxygen intake and energy.
  4. 4
    Exhale through your mouth. When you exhale, part your lips slightly and push the air out of your mouth using your diaphragm to force the air up and out. You should feel your diaphragm fall as you do this. Pause for a moment after exhaling your breath and then take in another breath when you feel ready.
    • Try doing deep breathing for five to 20 minutes every day.[6]

Method 2
Enhancing Your Breathing with Special Techniques

  1. 1
    Clench your fist when you breathe. Clenching your fists and pumping your arms while you breathe can help to increase your oxygen intake and stimulate your circulation.[7] Start by standing with your arms at your sides.
    • As you take in a breath, clench your fists tightly and begin to raise your arms out in front of you.
    • Then, bring your fists towards your shoulders as you exhale the breath.
    • Take in another breath and straighten out your arms out in front of you again, keeping your fists clenched.
    • Then, exhale as you bring your fists to your shoulders.
    • Keep repeating this exercise for several minutes.
  2. 2
    Sigh as you exhale. Sighing when you exhale can help you to relax.[8] To sigh on your exhales, take in a deep breath through your nose and then open your mouth wide just before you exhale. Exhale the breath out of your mouth with a bit of force.
    • Try saying “ahhhhh” as you exhale the breath.
    • Repeat the sighing breath several times when you need to relax.
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    Visualize your breath. Imagining what your breath looks like and where it is in your body can also help to deepen your relaxation as you breathe. Close your eyes before you start breathing. You may also want to sit or lie down in a comfortable spot.[9]
    • As you breathe, imagine that the air coming into your body is bright white.
    • Imagine the air flowing to every part of your body and bringing energy to your limbs and organs as you inhale.
    • As you exhale, imagine black air coming out of your body and taking all of the fatigue and negative energy away with it.
    • Repeat this exercise for about five to 10 minutes.
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    Practice pursed lip breathing. Pursed lip breathing can help you slow your breathing process, calm down, and relax. Whenever you're feeling short of breath, try to breathe using this technique.[10]
    • First, find a comfortable seated position. If you are in a chair, keep both feet on the floor.
    • Breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to two.
    • Feel your diaphragm expand, and your belly rise, as you inhale. You may feel your rib cage gently expanding.
    • Bend your lips into an O-shape, as if you were going to direct your breath towards blowing out a candle.
    • Breathe out through your mouth as you count to four.
    • As you continue to breathe in this method, you can change the counts, gradually increasing the lengths of your inhales and exhales.
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    Try to breathe slowly to prevent a panic attack. One of the best ways to calm yourself before a panic attack is to control your breathing. To do this, take a long slow breath. Fill your lower lungs with air, then fill your upper lungs with air. When your lungs are as full as they can be, hold your breath as you mentally count to three. Then slowly exhale your breath through pursed lips.[11]
    • As you exhale, try to relax the muscles in your face, chest, jaws and shoulders. It might help you to tense each of these muscles groups one by one and then release the muscles.
    • You can use this breathing technique any time you start to feel anxious.
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    Use the 7-11 breathing pattern to stop hyperventilating. Breathing too quickly, or hyperventilating, can sometimes feel similar to breathing too little. Both conditions are associated with panic disorders or social phobias.[12]
    • To calm yourself, bring your breath back to a healthy rate of speed by using the 7-11 breathing pattern. Close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose for a count of seven. Pause, then breathe out for a count of 11. Pause at the end of the breath, and repeat.
    • Hyperventilation is usually a result of chest breathing, rather than diaphragm breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm, with longer exhales than inhales, can restore your breath.
    • Practicing this style of breathing will help your overall anxiety level. You might find that you start breathing this way without thinking about it when you start to feel anxious.

Method 3
Improving Breathing with Lifestyle Changes

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    Reduce your exposure to irritants. Smoke, dust, chemical fumes, and other irritants can affect your breathing. If you are often exposed to these irritants, then this may be affecting your breathing. Some things you can do to reduce the irritants in your home include:[13]
    • Minimizing your time outdoors when air quality is poor. Air pollution will be worse outside than inside.
    • Quitting smoking if you are a smoker.
    • Ensuring that your home is well-ventilated when you clean with chemicals, such as by opening a window and running a fan.
    • Using an air purifier to remove airborne irritants in your home, such as dust and mold.
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    Avoid exposure to allergens. Allergens can also make it harder for you to breathe. Stay indoors on dry, sunny days that tend to be higher in allergens, and more time outside just after the rain. Avoid chores outside that provoke allergies, like mowing the grass or pulling weeds. Dry your clothes in a dryer rather than hanging them on the line, where they can get filled with pollen.[14]
    • When pollen counts are high, keep your doors and windows closed. Use air conditioning, and a dehumidifier.
    • Avoid outdoor activity in the hours of the early morning, as pollen counts are generally highest at this time.
    • Seasonal or chronic allergies may require help from an allergy specialist.
    • If you're allergic to pets, avoid spending time in areas where pets are or have been. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean pet areas. This may help you avoid difficulty breathing as a result of exposure to pet dander.
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    Exercise regularly. Getting regular exercise can help to improve your lung capacity and make breathing easier in general; however, this can be hard to start if you find it difficult to breathe. Talk with your doctor about some safe exercise options for your current fitness level.[15] You might just start with short walks around your home or neighborhood.
    • Make sure that you breathe correctly during exercise. It's important to maintain controlled breathing while exercising so that your muscles remain fully oxygenated. Avoid holding your breath at any time during exercise.
    • If you start to feel fatigued when exercising, check your breathing. If you're not breathing properly, you'll become tired more quickly.
  4. 4
    Keep your airways clear. It can be hard to breathe properly if you have a stuffy nose or phlegm in your throat. Try to keep your airways as clear as possible to improve your breathing.[16]
    • Blow your nose or spit to remove minor congestion.
    • If you have a cold, then try using a mentholated chest rub to help open up your airways, such as Vicks VapoRub.
    • You can also take a decongestant for severe congestion due to a cold.
    • Talk to your doctor if having blocked airways is a regular problem for you. You may require prescription medicine to treat the problem.
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    Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight can also make it harder to breathe.[17] If you are overweight, then losing some weight may help to ease your breathing. To lose weight, you will need to reduce your caloric intake and increase your activity level.
    • Excess fat across the abdominal area can cause breathing difficulties by pushing on the diaphragm and chest wall, making it harder for the lungs to fill with air.
    • Being overweight can also result in greater difficulty breathing when exercising.
    • Talk to your doctor for help constructing a weight loss program to suit your needs.
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    Take care of your immune system. Allowing yourself to feel tired or "run down" without attending to the underlying issues can weaken and damage your immune system. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of sleep, and staying hydrated are all ways that you can help take care of your immune system.[18]
    • Don't smoke. If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about how to quit. Stay away from passive (second-hand) smoking.
    • Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid eating too much saturated fat, sugar or sodium.
    • Drink alcohol only in moderation, or abstain altogether.
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    Avoid exertion at high elevations. If you find yourself in locations higher than 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), you'll notice that you may have difficulty breathing. This is because there's less oxygen found in higher altitudes, and your body must work twice as hard to get the same amount. This leads to breathlessness, dizziness and fatigue associated with altitude sickness.[19]
    • Your body should be able to adjust to the higher elevations within a few days. Drink plenty of water, and avoid exercise until you've adapted.
    • If you're traveling to a high-altitude location, your doctor may prescribe a medication to help you avoid altitude sickness.
  8. 8
    See your doctor if you are struggling to breathe. If you are having trouble breathing and you do not know why, then see your doctor as soon as possible.[20] Difficulty breathing may indicate that you have a serious condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Your doctor can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment options.

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Categories: Breathing and Meditation