Getting Breathwork Right

March 4, 2022

Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you are stressed vs how you breathe when you are relaxed? 

Breathing exercises aid in reducing stress and also help in managing anxiety. It elevates your mood and helps improve lung function therepy, ameliorating lung dysfunction. Breathing exercises also provide you with good nights’ sleep.  Performing breathing exercises regularly not only improves your concentration and focus but also enhances your memory and decision-making abilities. Practising these exercises helps in reducing heart-related diseases and in managing blood pressure. Another advantage of breathwork is its ability to naturally detoxify and smooth the digestive system’s functioning. 

But the question arises, is the way you are breathing correctly or not?

What is The Correct Way of Breathing?

Breathing is a process of air exchange that involves our lungs, diaphragm and intercostal muscles. These parts work together to allow a person to breathe. Even though it's a natural process, most people are not aware of the correct way of breathing. Therefore, ALA (American Lung Association), says, “Breathing through the nose can slow the breath flow and make the lungs work more efficiently. It filters the toxins and allergens from the air, warms the air we breathe (if it's cold) or humidifies the air if it's too dry. But the most effective breathing technique is using the belly also known as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing.” When we inhale diaphragm tightens, flattens and moves down, sucking air into the lungs, it pushes the abdominal contents down, which forces the abdominal wall out. When we exhale the diaphragm relaxes, air passes out of the lungs and the abdominal wall flattens.

Benefits of Correct Breathing?

One of the basic processes of the human body is “Breathing or Respiration”. And if the technique for breathing in and out is correct, it provides tremendous benefits. From cognition to digestion our body requires oxygen for every process and a proper breathing method will benefit not only anxiety and stress but also helps in better sleep, better digestion, and improves the body’s immune response. Many people now are gaining interest in Yoga and Yogic Breathing also known as Pranayam because of the great benefits it brings to a person’s overall health.

So what is the correct way of breathing? Breathing through our diaphragm i.e. ‘diaphragmatic breathing is the correct way to breathe.

Steps of Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Find a quiet room and pick up the time which will be your “ME TIME” for about 10–15 minutes. And all you have to do is:-

1)  Lie down on the bed or floor with a pillow under your knees (Wear nothing that is constricting like tight clothing) and spend a few moments settling yourself down.

2) Close your eyes, spread your feet a few inches apart, keep your head, neck and spine in a straight line.

3) Focus on deep breathing. Do not try to change your breathing for the moment and focus on how fast or slow you are breathing, whether you are breathing with your chest or diaphragm. Notice whether there are any gaps or pauses between your inhalation or exhalation.

4) Now, put one hand on your upper chest, and one hand on your abdomen just below your rib cage.

5) Relax your shoulders and hands. Deeply inhale, allow the abdomen to rise, and while exhaling allow the abdomen to flatten. ( no movement in the chest).

6) Allow yourself a little time to get into a regular rhythm.

7) Let the distractions, thoughts or worries cross your mind and bring your attention back to your breathing.

8) When you are ready to end this exercise, take deep breaths and bring some feeling back into your fingers and toes. Rub your palms, keep them on your eyes, slowly open your eyes and turn over onto one side before gently sitting up.

Ways Correct Breathing Techniques Help Us in Different Areas of Our Lives Are:

Breathing Exercise for Better Sleep

We all crave good nights’ sleep, don’t we?; And we pretty much deserve it too. But nights when your mind is racing with thoughts, replaying the busy day or getting stressed planning the days ahead, can play a major role in disturbing this craving. You might sleep but not be able to enjoy it and you are not going to experience a good and fresh morning. So, If you are noticing or observing someone suffering from a troubled sleep, it's important to observe the reasons first: from temporary excitement to more long-term sleep disorders and poor lifestyle habits. Therefore proper breathing exercise techniques can help you to achieve a sound sleep.

 Breathing therapy also helps you have better sleep by quieting the mind and creating a deep state of relaxation and meditation. When you focus on your breath, you will find yourself fully in the present moment.

Breathwork Exercise for Better Sleep

This breathwork technique helps to switch on the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system - the perfect state to be in for restful sleep because it encourages your body to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, your blood pressure and heart rate will lower as soon as you do the exercise.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose or mouth.
  3. Purse your lips and gently breathe the air out of your mouth very slowly as though you are breathing out through a straw. Relax all the muscles in your body as much as possible while you do this.
  4. As you exhale, imagine a wave of relaxation flowing down your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet and the tips of your toes.
  5. Repeat the process for 5-10 minutes, several times a day if you like. The more you practice this, the more effective it is at helping you relax.
  6. Once you have exhaled, hold your breath for a few seconds before inhaling and repeating the process again

Few Tips to enhance your performance while doing breathing therapy:- cover your eyes towards the tip of your nose or up towards the third eye, Make a long humming sound on the out-breath with AUM or any sound or single tone that feels good for you. Feeling the vibration around your body is deeply relaxing, Silently repeat this mantra: “I command my subconscious mind to fall into a deep sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated”. This is very effective self-hypnosis.

Breathing Exercise for Anxiety

Nowadays people are surrounded by different types of stress, and almost every third person is complaining about an “Anxiety Attack”. Anxiety is the body’s fight or flight response while facing any physical, mental threat or in normal language, it’s the body’s normal response to Stress. The word “Anxiety “ is usually considered as bad or weak but it's important to understand that anxiety is a good response that is required to keep the person alert and aware in the face of danger. But anything in excess is hazardous to health. 

Breathing Exercise During Exercise

Breathing is the most important function of our body but we hardly consider it while we are exercising. Exercise is one such scenario in which breathing can quicken and become laboured if you are not breathing properly. Keeping a check on breathing during exercise will not only help you improve your endurance and cardiovascular health but also boost your metabolism, mood and energy levels. Therefore, while going on a walk or jog rather than disturbing your body system by using a gadget try to focus on your breathing. Incorrect ways of breathing during exercise can lead to rapid fatigue and exhaustion and your mind will not be able to focus on one thing at a time.

Breathwork During Walk or Jog

All you have to do is keep your phone aside and focus on your respiration:-

  1. Inhale by inflating your belly fully on a count of five.
  2. Allow your lungs to fill, drawing your shoulders back as you do.
  3. Exhale by pulling your belly button toward the spine on a count of five.
  4. Use your diaphragm to press the air out of the lungs, keeping your spine erect.
  5. Repeat.

If you are unable to maintain a count of five, you can either shorten the count or slow the intensity of your walk. If you are in good shape, you may be able to extend the count. Diaphragmatic breathing may not come naturally at first, but, if you persist, it will soon become automatic and it will be helpful for your lungs.

How Can You Incorporate The Breathing Exercise Routine Into Your Daily Routine?

As of now, we read why breathing exercise is important, its benefits, its different methods etc. but how can you start incorporating it into your daily routine. How to take that one small step towards the better and correct way of Breathing:-

  • Dedicate a certain amount of time:- at least a few times per week.
  • Do it with your loved ones and it can be a bond-building exercise.
  • Try to include it before at least one meal.
  • Stack this habit with another habit of yours. For instance, do it after working out or before sleeping.
  • Find an accountability partner with whom you can share your experiences and progress. This will add to your compliance.  

Word of Caution:

But do these Breathing Methods work?  Yes, it works. Take the time to experiment with different types of breathing techniques. Always start slow and check if the breathing practice suits you. Discontinue the practice if you experience any feelings of discomfort or agitation. Give yourself some time and try again to get accustomed to a new breathing technique. If you want to learn more, you can always consult a respiratory therapist or a yoga teacher who specializes in breathing practices.


Maneesha Rana
Functional Nutritionist

Maneesha has a master's in Nutrition and Dietetics. Practicing as a Nutritionist for 2.5 years, she believes ‘You’ are your only obstacle in the healing journey. Therefore, It's important to remind ourselves that we are the only person standing in the way of our next goal and simultaneously love our body. Her Mantra for better health is “Eating Mindfully, Breathing Deeply, and Living your life to the fullest.”

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