Are You Breathing Right? Find Out Here For Better Health

Can Learning Breathing Techniques Help You? Do They Actually Make a Difference?

by Lisa Ledoux

Yes– and the more you learn about and practice proper breathing, the more you’ll see it makes a difference!

Photo of happy mature woman relaxing and breathing fresh air with sunlight in outdoors park.

How It Works

Deep breaths are said to:

  • reduce everyday stress levels,
  • improve energy levels,
  • promote overall well-being,

Later, I’ll share how breathing helped me and what I was doing wrong- for decades!!! (it’s sad to admit)

After reading this post you’ll better understand:

  • Why Breathing Properly Is Good For You
  • Diaphragmatic, Pursed Lip, and Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • Signs You May Be Breathing Incorrectly
  • Meditation, Yoga, and Pranayama
  • How to Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
  • Maintaining Regular Breathing Practices
  • Breathwork in Every Day. Real. Life.
  • Difficult Emotions During Breathwork
  • Take Your Breath Practice to the Next Level

Why Breathing Properly Is Good For You

Proper breathing techniques can have an amazing impact on your overall health, like:

  1. Reduced stress: Deep breathing stimulates relaxation and lowers stress and anxiety levels.
  2. Improved functions: Effective breathing increases the amount of oxygen in your body, lung function, and overall oxygenation of tissues and organs.
  3. Improved digestion: Deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve, which is responsible for activating the digestive system, leading to improved digestion.
  4. Increased energy levels: Proper breathing techniques oxygenate the body which boosts energy levels and reduces fatigue.
  5. Reduced inflammation: Deep breathing may reduce inflammation levels in the body, which is associated with a range of health issues.
  6. Improved immune function: Proper breathing stimulates the lymphatic system, which filters toxins and waste products out of the body, leading to improved immune function.
  7. Better sleep: It helps calm the mind and body, helping improve sleep quality and duration.
woman resting on a park bench, breathing deeply with eyes closed

That all sounds great, so how do you get started?

By learning diaphragmatic breathing, pursed lip breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and more.

So What Are Diaphragmatic, Pursed Lip, and Alternate Nostril Breathing?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the three:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing or deep breathing): This is taking slow, deep breaths through your nose and into your belly so you entirely use your diaphragm muscle, which can lower stress and anxiety.
  2. Pursed lip breathing: You inhale through your nose and exhale slowly through pursed lips (like blowing out a candle). This increases resistance to airflow, allowing for slower, more controlled breathing, and can be helpful for people with lung conditions.
  3. Alternate nostril breathing: This involves breathing in through one nostril and out the other, alternating nostrils with each breath. It’s thought to balance the body’s energy flow, promote relaxation, and is used in yoga and meditation practices.

If you practice these techniques, you can learn to control your breathing, improve your lung function, and reduce stress and anxiety levels in your body.

Nap day sleep of black woman with closed eyes lay on cozy bed at home.

Signs You May Be Breathing Incorrectly

Here are some ways we breathe improperly and how to correct them:

  1. Shallow chest breathing is inhaling and exhaling through the chest and shoulders rather than expanding the diaphragm- which causes neck and shoulder tension and increased anxiety levels. To correct this, practice diaphragmatic breathing, where you focus on breathing deeply into the belly.
  2. Frequent sighing or yawning can be a sign of shallow breathing or anxiety. To correct this, practice diaphragmatic breathing or try inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth while focusing on relaxing your body and mind.
  3. Holding your breath unconsciously can lead to tightness in the chest and a lack of oxygen in the body. To correct this, focus on diaphragmatic breathing slowly and steadily throughout the day.
  4. Excessive snoring at night can be a sign of improper breathing patterns or a more serious condition like sleep apnea. To correct, try sleeping on your side or stomach instead of your back, which can help clear your airway.

So, I mentioned that sad breathing faux-paus?

I hold my breath, or I used to –ALL THE TIME- for years- it didn’t matter if I was cleaning, cooking, reading, or performing any other mundane task. I’d suddenly catch myself doing this and I didn’t like it.

And since I’ve been learning so much about breathing- I notice more quickly if I’m holding my breath and I stop it- immediately.

It’s a process, unconsciously holding my breath took years to develop and will take time to eliminate but I really think I’ll kick this awful habit to the curb FULLY!

What about you? Do any of these incorrect techniques resonate?

Meditation, Yoga, and Pranayama

These are practices that can all help with breathwork in different ways.

yellow exercise mat, green fitness ball and dumbbells prepared in the bright living room at home for exercises.
  1. Meditation involves training your mind to focus on the present moment- thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. By focusing on your breath, you’ll notice improper breathing patterns and breathe more deeply and fully.
  2. Yoga postures are designed to open up the body and often involve deep breathing and breath retention, helping to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve respiratory health.
  3. Pranayama is a yogic practice that focuses on breathwork through different techniques. Some focus on slow, deep breathing to calm the mind and reduce stress, while others focus on rapid, forceful breathing to energize the body and improve respiratory health.

How to Practice Deep Breathing Exercises

  1. Get Comfy: Sit upright in a chair or on the floor with your back straight and make sure you’re comfortable.
  2. Relax: Take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose. Let your body relax with each exhale and try to release any bodily muscle tension.
  3. Inhale: Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. This will help you feel the expansion and contraction of your diaphragm.
  4. Breathe in: Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Feel your ribcage expand, focus on pulling in your belly, and do not use your shoulders- keep them in a low, relaxed position.
  5. Exhale: Slowly exhale through your mouth, pushing the air out from deep within your belly. Feel your hand fall with each breath out.
  6. Repeat: Continue breathing slowly in and out, focusing on your hand rising and falling with each breath. Make sure to inhale deeply enough to feel your belly expand and contract.
  7. Set a timer: Start with five minutes and work your way up to longer sessions.
  8. Practice: Doing deep breathing exercises regularly can strengthen your diaphragm and improve your respiratory health.
Smiling black Woman looking at mobile phone

These can be done anywhere, and anytime you need to relieve stress and reduce anxiety.

Breathwork in Every Day. Real. Life.

Try these tips to incorporate breathing into your daily life:

  1. Choose a time of day when you can dedicate several minutes to breathing practice. Creating a quiet, comfortable space where you can focus on your breath can also help.
  2. Set a small daily goal of a few minutes and work your way towards longer sessions. This can help you maintain your practice over time.
  3. Incorporate various techniques like deep belly breathing or alternate nostril breathing to help you relax, improve your focus, and increase your overall sense of well-being.
  4. Treat your breath practice as a form of self-care.
  5. A Cool Head: If you’re in a tense situation, take a deep breath before responding. This’ll ground you and give you time to think clearly for a sec.
  6. Be Self-Aware: Take a sec to breathe mindfully when you notice you need it. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a count of three, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
  7. Opportunities Everywhere: Use your commutes as a place to check in. Walk or drive mindfully, taking deep breaths, and releasing tension with each exhale.
  8. Reminders: Set a reminder on your phone or computer to check in with your breath every hour or so. This will help establish your efficient breathing as a long-term habit.
  9. Routines: Bring breathwork into your daily routine: when you wake up, before bed, or during your lunch break. Even a few minutes can have a significant impact on your overall well-being.

By integrating these simple techniques into your daily routine, you can develop a more consistent breath practice and manage stress more effectively.

Sad and worried woman side portrait at home in the dark looking outside the window. Worried and lonely female alone indoor.

Difficult Emotions During Breathwork

Breathwork practices can bring up a range of difficult emotions, such as anxiety, fear, or anger. Here are some tips to help you deal with these emotions:

  • Rather than trying to push difficult emotions away, accept that they exist and allow yourself to feel them. Acknowledge the feeling without judgment or criticism.
  • During your breathwork practice, focus on your breath and use it as an anchor to bring yourself back to the present moment. This can help you release negative emotions and thoughts.
  • Find a comfortable, quiet space where you can practice your breathwork without distractions. You can also use essential oils or aromatherapy candles to create a calming environment.
  • Try visualizing your emotion as a physical object and interacting with it, either by holding it or watching it drift away. This can help you release difficult emotions.
  • Remind yourself of the initial reason you started practicing breathwork. This can act as a reminder to stay focused and present during the practice.
  • If you find that difficult emotions persist, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who can help you work through your feelings.

Remember that dealing with difficult emotions during breathwork practice is a normal part of the process.

By using these techniques, creating a supportive environment, and seeking support when needed, you can effectively manage these emotions and deepen your breathwork practice.

Take Your Breath Practice to the Next Level 

If you are interested in taking your breath practice to the next level, here are some tips to try:

Mature woman resting on exercise mat after workout and showing thumb up, holding bottle of water.
  1. Experiment with different breathing techniques, such as pranayama or Wim Hof-style breathing to can challenge yourself and keep your practice interesting and engaging.
  2. Consider working with a breathing coach or a therapist or attending a class to help you deepen your breath practice. They can provide you with personalized feedback and guidance, helping you to refine your technique and approach.
  3. Consider integrating meditation or yoga into your breath practice to deepen your awareness and mindfulness. This can help you stay focused and grounded, allowing you to better connect with your breath.
  4. Keeping a record of your breath practice, such as how long you practice and which techniques you use, can help you see progress and stay motivated.

Signing Off…

Thank you for taking the time to learn about breathwork and how it can help you manage your stress.

Remember to be gentle with yourself and stay mindful of your body’s needs. If you find that difficult emotions persist, please seek professional help.

Take Care and Breath Easy!

***The information provided in this article is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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