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19 May 2021 | 5 min read

Breathing Exercises To Strengthen Lungs

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Breathing comes naturally to us, we are born and that is one of the most vital functions our body is wired to perform. Because it keeps us alive. With breathing, we can exhale carbon dioxide, a byproduct, out of the body and inhale oxygen, a necessity for survival. However, when we don’t breathe properly, we tend to disturb this exchange leading to us getting anxious, tired, panic attacks and other physical problems.

What happens when we do not breathe properly?

Breathe Properly – Live More Zone

Like we stated above, improper breathing leads to anxiety and panic attacks. This is the body’s stress response when a person is taking rapid, shallow breaths, also known as thoracic and chest breathing. When this happens, a person experiences dizziness, an uptick in heart rate and other physical difficulties which trigger anxiety and panic attacks.

Breathing Exercises to augment deep breathing

Breathe Properly – Live More Zone

The antidote to thoracic breathing is abdominal breathing. Known as diaphragmatic breathing, this is the type of breathing a person does when they are in a relaxed stage of sleep. When you practice deep breathing, your diaphragms are being put to use as your lungs expand to create negative pressure to fill them with air.

Whenever you are anxious or having panic attacks, practicing deep breathing exercises will help you relax. Some of the breathing exercises you can try are:

1. Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing – Live More Zone

One of the best breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and stress, belly breathing is perfect for everyone. It should be practiced for at least 20-30 minutes. However, you can start with 5-10 minutes a day and gradually work up your diaphragm to do the belly breathing for half an hour. To practice this,

  • Sit cross-legged or in a chair in a seated position. Now, place one hand above your chest and the other below the belly, beneath your ribcage.
  • Relax your belly so that you are not squeezing it in. Slowly inhale through your nose, allowing the air to pass through until you notice a rise in your stomach.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips.

2. Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing – Live More Zone

Also known as Nadhi Shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, this is a popular form of breathing exercises in yoga that helps in relaxation. It is also a recommended breathing exercise for people who want to improve their cardiovascular function. To do this, sit upright to maintain your posture.

  • After you are in the correct posture, bring your right hand to your nose and close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Now, close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Practice this is in an even and relaxed manner at least ten times. And breathe normally before you get up.

3. 4-7-8 Breathing

4-7-8 Breathing – Live More Zone

A variation to the ancient pranayama technique, this breathing exercise allows you to relax completely, acting as a natural tranquillizer for the body. During the 4-7-8 breathing, your body is replenished with oxygen ensuring you are not in short supply. To practice it,

  • Sit straight with your back against a wall or erect. Gently part your lips and exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Now press your lips together and inhale through the nose for the count of 4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds and gently exhale through the mouth, making a whoosh sound again for the count of 8.
  • Repeat it four times when you start doing this exercise and gradually build it up to eight repetitions.

4. Box Breathing

Box Breathing – Live More Zone

A simple breathing exercise, box breathing, is a paced breathing that follows a rhythm. To practice this,

  • Start by exhaling to a count of four. Keep your lungs empty for another count of four.
  • Now, inhale for a count of four and hold air in your lungs to a count of four.
  • Exhale and start the process again.

5. Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed Lip Breathing – Live More Zone

This type of breathing allows you to slow down your pace of breathing. This is done by applying effort in every breath, and it is useful when you are climbing stairs, lifting or bending.

Moreover, according to The Lung Health Institute, pursed-lip breathing is beneficial to reduce anxiety related to emphysema, a lung condition and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Source here

To practice pursed-lip breathing,

  • Sit in an upright position and relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Now inhale slowly for a count of 2 seconds and remember to keep your mouth close.
  • Purse your lips or pucker like you are about to blow a whistle and gently exhale for a count of 4 seconds.
  • Repeat it 4-5 times initially to get it right.

6. Mindful Breathing

Mindful Breathing – Live More Zone

This is a simple form of meditation and the perfect breathing exercise for anxiety. In mindful breathing, we try to tame our monkey mind. The idea is to focus on the present as you gently inhale and exhale. Our minds are prone to wander off constantly due to so much information, and thus, practising mindful breathing helps in inducing a sense of calmness. To practice it,

  • Pick your calming focus. It can sound like om, positive words like peace, love, gratitude or a phrase like ‘positivity in, negativity out’. Once you have decided that, stick to it as you inhale and exhale.
  • Now simply inhale and exhale as gently as you can. When your mind wanders off, bring it back to the present by taking a deep breath and starting again.

7. Coherent Breathing

Coherent Breathing – Live More Zone

Also known as resonant breathing, this breathing techniquehelps in reducing stress and increases heart rate variability (HRV). According to a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine, coherent or resonant breathing, when combined with Iyengar yoga, can help in reducing symptoms of depression.

Source here

To practice coherent breathing, you have to breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute. To do this:

  • Inhale gently to a count of 5.
  • Exhale gently to a count of 5.
  • Practice this process for a few minutes.

Deep breathing ensures you are relaxed and can help you lower your stress significantly if you practice it daily. Meditation and yoga, along with deep breathing exercises, are recommended for life, especially during these unprecedented times when everything can easily overwhelm us.

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