Breathing allows us to stay alive and is a natural part of our lives. People may wonder why they should invest time in learning and doing breathing exercises to support their physical and mental health. Most of us do not breathe at full capacity when we do this unconsciously.
Various breathing techniques help us use our lungs and diaphragm more intentionally, which can help get rid of any stale air that may have accumulated over time and increase our oxygen intake. Doing so can boost all our body functions and positively affect our well-being.
Breathing exercises are easy to add to your daily life and you can practice them anywhere. Another perk is that you do not need any special equipment to do them.
Common Types of Breathing Exercises
Two components play active roles in many breathing exercises: properly engaging your diaphragm, the small muscle below your lungs, and focusing on how you inhale and exhale. For example, diaphragmatic breathing where you are keenly aware of how you contract and release your diaphragm is a solid starting point. If you are interested in controlling your inhale and exhale, you can use the 4-7-8 method, in which you inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, and exhale for eight.
Other breathing exercises include:
- Pursed lip breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Lion’s breath
You can use breathing techniques as an isolated practice or as part of a meditation routine if you already have one or are interested in implementing one.
#1 Improved Cognitive Function
When you focus on your breath, you can clear your mind and become more grounded in the present moment. This helps improve your concentration and minimize wandering thoughts, so you stay on the task at hand.
Regular breathing exercises can increase and maintain your cognitive abilities, including decision-making and memory functions.
#2 Effective Stress Management
A popular reason why people learn breathing exercises is their effectiveness as a stress management technique. When you breathe deeply and are fully present with your breath, your oxygen intake increases which can quiet your mind.
Given how widespread chronic stress and anxiety are, learning one or two simple breathing exercises can help you approach stressful situations more easily. Deep breathing can lower your cortisol levels and encourages your brain to instead release more endorphins for a mood boost.
#3 Increased Sleep Quality
Given their relaxing benefits, breathing exercises can improve your sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms with consistent practice. While you can do your breathing exercises at any time of the day, you may want to incorporate some as part of your bedtime routine.
Breathing exercises can help you wind down and signal to your body and mind that it is time to rest. This type of practice helps regulate your nervous system and can boost your body’s production of melatonin for improved sleep.
#4 Lower Blood Pressure
Thanks to their stress management qualities, breathing exercises can lower your blood pressure. Although the reduction is mild to moderate, this practice can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure issues if you eat a balanced diet and regularly engage in physical activity.
Breathing deeply helps you physically relax which can stimulate your blood circulation and supports your cardiovascular health.
#5 Stronger Muscles
Breathing exercises that fully engage the diaphragm can improve your muscle conditioning. Deep breathing can optimize your core muscle stability as you practice this type of breathing regularly, if possible, every day. This can increase your performance when working out or participating in sports.
Breathing exercises can also help you recover more quickly from a high-intensity workout and reduce your risk of sports injury.
How Do I Learn Breathing Exercises?
You have many options to learn breathing exercises, including online tutorials and apps. You may nevertheless consider talking to a professional to learn proper techniques, such as your primary care physician, your physical therapist, a mental health provider, or a licensed fitness trainer or yoga teacher. This can be especially helpful if you have specific situations or goals for which you want to use breathing exercises.
To implement a breathing exercise routine, you can:
- Schedule the activity at the same time and place every day
- Choose a quiet place
- Focus on building the habit rather than doing every breath “right”
- Aim for 10-20 minutes each time you do the exercises
Consistency and patience are central to building any habit, including incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine.
ProFysio Physical Therapy offers personalized personal therapy solutions to help you live pain-free in Monmouth or Middlesex Counties. Contact us today at (732) 812-5200 to schedule an appointment!