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  • Writer's pictureRobin R Varghese, PT.

We don't forget to breathe, but we often forget to aid breathing with exercises that can improve it

Breathing is a complex process involving the lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles

  • When you have healthy lungs, breathing is natural and easy. You breathe in and out with your diaphragm doing about 80 percent of the work to fill your lungs with a mixture of oxygen and other gases, and then to send the waste gas out.

  • With Respiratory conditions like Asthma and COPD, the lungs don't return to the same level as when you start breathing, and air gets trapped in our lungs

  • Over time, stale air builds up, leaving less room for the diaphragm to contract and bring in fresh oxygen.

  • With the diaphragm not working to full capacity, the body starts to use other muscles in the neck, back and chest for breathing. This translates into lower oxygen levels, and less reserve for exercise and activity.

  • If practiced regularly, breathing exercises can help rid the lungs of accumulated stale air, increase oxygen levels and get the diaphragm to return to its job of helping you breathe.

Breathing exercises are a form of exercise that can be used for a variety of health-related reasons.

Improper breathing can upset the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and other physical and emotional disturbances.

Plz note: We strongly recommend that you do not perform any exercises or techniques on your own without an expert's concern or training for the same as it may have an adverse impact.

Some of the best breathing exercises are:

1.) Deep Breathing Exercise

Deep breathing helps to relieve shortness of breath by preventing air from getting trapped in the lungs and helps inhalation of more fresh air to the base of the lungs. It may help the client to feel more relaxed and centered.


  • While standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand.

  • Take a deep inhalation through the nose.

  • Retain your breath for a count of 5.

  • Slowly release your breath by exhaling through the nose

2.) Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of breathing exercise that helps strengthen the diaphragm, an important muscle that helps with breathing, as it represents 80% of breathing. Diaphragmatic exercises help to make people feel relaxed and rested.

· This breathing exercise is also sometimes called belly breathing or abdominal breathing.


  • Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support if that's more comfortable.

  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.

  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through mouth. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

  • You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.

3.) Pursed lips breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is a breathing technique that consists of exhaling through tightly pressed (pursed) lips and inhaling through the nose with the mouth closed. It is a simple breathing technique that helps with making deep breaths slower and more intentional.

This technique has been found to benefit people who have anxiety-associated lung conditions eg emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD


  • The patient should assume a comfortable position as the therapist describes and demonstrates the technique for PLB and explains its expected benefits.

  • With a hand on the patient’s mid abdominal muscles, the therapist instructs the patient to inhale slowly through the nose.

  • The patient is then told to let the air escape gently through the pursed lips, avoiding excessive use of the abdominal muscles. Giving the patient a verbal cue, such as “imagine you want to make the flame flicker on a candle that is being held at arm’s length from you,” will enhance the patient’s understanding and performance.

  • The patient is directed to stop exhaling when an abdominal contraction is detected.

  • When able to perform PLB without cues, the patient substitutes their own hand for the therapist’s hand.

4.) Box Breathing

Box breathing can be helpful with relaxation. Box breathing is a breathing exercise to assist patients with stress management and can be implemented before, during, and/or after stressful experiences. Box breathing involves visualizing a journey around the four sides of a square, pausing while traveling horizontally, and breathing in while traveling up the square and out while traveling down it. This exercise can be implemented in many environments, not requiring a calm environment to be effective.


  • Step One: Breath in through the nose for a count of 4.

  • Step Two: Hold your breath for a count of 4.

  • Step Three: Breath out for a count of 4.

  • Step Four: Hold your breath for a count of 4.

  • Repeat

5.) Active Cycle Of Breathing Techniques (ACBT)

The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques (ACBT) is an active breathing technique performed by the patient and can be used to mobilize and clear excess pulmonary secretions and to generally improve lung function. Once ACBT has been taught, the patient can be encouraged to use it independently without the supervision of a physiotherapist. This exercise does not require the use of any special equipment.

It consists of 3 main phases. They are:

  1. Breathing Control

  2. Deep Breathing Exercises or Thoracic Expansion Exercises

  3. Huffing or Forced Expiratory Technique.

The techniques for these phases are elaborate and will require proper understanding. No one, but your physical therapist will be the right person who can walk you through these techniques.

6.) Lion's Breath to relieve stress

People may consider trying lion breathing for stress.

This exercise uses breathing along with face stretches to relieve stress and tension. Exhaling deeply can relax the muscles.

To perform lion breathing, a person should:

  • breathe in deeply through the nose

  • breathe out forcefully with the mouth open wide, sticking the tongue out

  • roll the eyes upward while breathing out to stretch the face


This exercise can help ease a busy mind before going to bed. Focusing on the breath and counting can distract from worries or stress as a person tries to fall asleep. This technique also helps breathing become more regular and can relax the body.

Before starting this exercise, people should rest the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, try to relax the muscles, and breathe out fully through the mouth.

People can then perform the 4-7-8 breathing technique:

  • breathe in through the nose for a count of four

  • hold the breath for a count of seven

  • part the lips and exhale loudly for a count of eight

8.) Mindful breathing

People may consider trying mindful breathing for anxiety, stress, sleep issues, or high blood pressure.

This technique requires a person to concentrate fully on the breath, using this focused attention.

There are many different mindful breathing techniques. One simple one is to focus on the natural rhythm of breathing in and out, without trying to change it. Doing this may naturally slow down the breathing.

one must:

  • find a quiet place without distractions

  • choose a comfortable position, ideally sitting or lying down

  • focus on breathing by feeling and listening to the body inhale and exhale

  • allow thoughts to pass through the mind without judgment

What does the Research have to say?

  • Breathing exercises can improve pulmonary function, respiratory muscle strength, exercise capacity, dyspnea, and health-related quality of life in patients with COPD.

  • Evidence suggests that diaphragmatic breathing may decrease stress as measured by physiologic biomarkers, as well psychological self-report tools.

  • Evidence exists to support the use of breathing exercises in the treatment of chronic, nonspecific low back pain.

  • Breathing-based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in U.S. military veterans.

  • The way of breathing decisively influences autonomic and pain processing. Deep slow breathing in concert with relaxation are essential feature in the modulation of sympathetic arousal and pain perception. Thus can be useful in chronic pain management.

  • Breathing exercises for adults with asthma may have some positive effects on quality of life, hyperventilation symptoms, and lung function.

At Valley Healing Hand, Brownsville, Texas, we provide the best respiratory physical therapy and our highly qualified physical therapists will be more than excited to have you on board and will train you each and every breathing techniques and exercises before you can be on your own, Our patients are superbly satisfied with our services. You can learn about what they have to say about us here and get connected to us here. Our patients love us and you too will!!!

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