Breathing Exercises To Try

Breathing Exercises to Try to Improve Health and Wellness

Unlock the power of deep breathing! Discover effective breathing exercises to try to relieve anxiety, improve lung health, and boost overall well-being

“Just Breathe”, “Relax”, or  “Take a Breather”. These are some common phrases we hear from our well-wishers in moments of stress and crisis. There is no doubt that breathing is one of the most effective ways to calm down, and knowing the right techniques will help you harness this power correctly. You may relax, reduce stress, and enhance your general health and wellness by doing breathing exercises. This article will discuss some of the top beginner breathing exercises as well as advanced techniques that can take your practice to the next level. 

Breathing exercises for beginners

Let’s begin with some simple techniques that are easy to master. Here are three of the best breathing exercises for beginners:

Diaphragmatic breathing

The diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle separating the chest cavity from the abdomen, and is the single most important muscle for breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique to activate this muscle and use it effectively. Also known as abdominal breathing or belly breathing, this technique is the simplest form of breathing exercise. It strengthens the diaphragm, reduces the effort required to breathe by lowering your breathing rate, lowers the oxygen demand and reduces the breathing energy and effort.1

To practice diaphragmatic breathing:2

  1. Start by sitting or laying down in a comfortable posture
  2. Using both hands, place one on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply through your nose while allowing your abdomen to expand and rise
  3.  Hold your breath for a few seconds, and slowly let it out of your lips while feeling your stomach reposition itself
  4. Repeat for a few minutes, concentrating on how your body feels as your breath enters and exits

Equal breathing

Equal breathing, sometimes referred to as sama vritti pranayama, is a practice that calls for taking identically long breaths in and out. It is a yogic breathing exercise, which translates to “equal mental fluctuation breathing”. This method can help you in improving your attention and lowering your tension and anxiety levels. Sama Vritti may also lower blood pressure and boost brain oxygenation.

Start by sitting in a comfortable position before beginning to practice equal breathing. Inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Repeat many times while concentrating on your breathing rhythm.

It should be practised with caution, especially for individuals suffering from high blood pressure, heart/lung/eye diseases or during pregnancy.3

Box breathing

Derived from the yogic practice of sama vritti pranayama, it is a practice that calls for breathing in for four counts, holding the breath for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and then holding the breath for four counts. Also referred to as four-square breathing, this technique can help you calm your mind, and reduce stress and anxiety by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.

To practice box breathing:4

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable posture  
  • Hold your breath for four counts after inhaling for four
  • Hold the breath for four counts before exhaling for four
  • Repeat numerous times, concentrating on how your breath feels as it enters and exits your body

Breathing exercises for anxiety

Breathing exercises can be a highly effective therapy for managing the symptoms of anxiety. The following three breathing techniques can help lower anxiety. 

4-7-8 breathing

The relaxing breath, also known as 4-7-8 breathing, is a three-staged method that calls for inhaling for four counts, holding the breath for seven counts, and then exhaling for eight counts. You may find it easier to fall asleep with this technique and your anxiety and tension may subside.

To begin practising 4-7-8 breathing: 

  • find a comfortable seat
  • Inhale for four counts
  • Hold your breath for seven counts 
  • Exhale for eight counts
  • Repeat many times while concentrating on your breathing's rhythm

If it is difficult for you to hold your breath, speed up the workout while maintaining the 4:7:8 ratio for the three stages. You may learn to slow everything down and gradually deepen your breaths through practice.5 

Alternate nostril breathing

The practice of breathing via one nostril and out the other is referred to as alternate nostril breathing. A yogic breathing technique, also called Nadisudhi Pranayama. You may balance your energy and get rid of tension and anxiety with this method.6

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable posture
  • Inhale through your left nose while placing your right thumb over your right nostril
  • After that, exhale through your right nostril while pinching your left nostril shut with your ring finger
  • Exhale via your left nostril after taking a breath through your right one
  • Repeat this many times while concentrating on how your breath feels as it enters and exits your body

Pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a technique that can help you regulate your breathing and reduce shortness of breath. Inhale via your nose and exhale through pursed lips, as if whistling. 

  • Begin by sitting or standing in a comfortable position
  • Inhale for two counts via your nose, then exhale for four counts through pursed lips
  • Repeat for several minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath travelling in and out of your body

Pursed-lips breathing is an efficient method for increasing gas exchange, reducing the rate of expiration and improving exercise tolerance and alleviating dyspnea.7

Advanced breathing exercises

If you've been doing breathing exercises for a while and want to step up your game, here are some advanced yogic techniques to try:

Kapalabhati breathing

Kapalabhati breathing, also known as ‘skull sparkling breath’, is a method that includes exhaling quickly and forcefully via the nostrils. This method can help you gain energy, cleanse your mind, and enhance your digestion.8

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable posture to do kapalabhati breathing
  • Deeply inhale through your nose, then exhale strongly through your nose, bringing your belly closer to your spine
  • Repeat for numerous rounds, concentrating on your breathing pattern

Those with high or low blood pressure, as well as those with coronary heart disease, shouldn't perform kapalabhati. Individuals who have difficulties with their eyes (for example, glaucoma), ears (for example, fluid in the ears), or a bleeding nose should avoid doing this activity.9

Bhastrika breathing

Bhastrika breathing, sometimes referred to as ‘bellows breathing’, is a method that involves quick, forceful inhalations and exhalations via the nose. You can boost your energy, sharpen your focus, and rev up your metabolism using this method. 

  • Sit in a comfortable posture to begin 
  • Exhale quickly through your nostrils after taking a long breath in
  • Repeat many times while concentrating on the pattern of your breath10,11 

Breathing exercises for specific health conditions

Many medical disorders, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and sleep apnoea, can be managed and improved using breathing exercises. These exercises can aid in enhancing lung capacity, reducing breathlessness, and encouraging relaxation.


Millions of individuals throughout the world suffer from asthma, a chronic lung condition. It is characterised by airway inflammation and constriction, which can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma symptoms can be controlled and lung function can be enhanced by using breathing exercises. Those with asthma can benefit from breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing and pursed lip breathing.12

Firstly, ensure you are breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. Perform nasal breathing exercises to master this. Here are some suggestions on how to breathe through your nose:13

  • Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose as you unwind
  • Keep your mouth shut while taking in and letting out breaths
  • Try to get as much air as you can into your lungs by taking long, deep breaths
  • When exercising or jogging, pay special attention to breathing via your nostrils
  • Improve your nasal breathing technique by performing breathing exercises like pranayama or alternate nostril breathing
  • Keep your mouth closed when you sleep to prevent dry mouth, snoring, and other sleep-related issues


COPD is a progressive lung disease that can cause breathing difficulties, coughing and chest tightness. Exercises that focus on breathing can help persons with COPD breathe easier and enhance their lung capacity. 

The huff cough is an efficient breathing technique for COPD. By using this method, you inhale deeply before forcefully exhaling from your lips while making a ’huff’ sound. Breathing can be made easier and mucus in the lungs can be removed with the huff cough.

Pursed-lip breathing is another breathing method that can be used to treat COPD symptoms. Inhaling via the nose and exhaling through pursed lips are both components of pursed lip breathing, as was previously mentioned.14 Diaphragmatic breathing can also be employed to promote ventilation and reduce the work of breathing.15

Sleep apnoea

In the case of sleep apnoea, breathing is disrupted while you're asleep, which causes snoring, gasping, and daytime sleepiness. Exercises to enhance breathing while sleeping and lessen sleep apnoea symptoms can be done.

Tongue exercises can be utilised to treat sleep apnoea. To enhance breathing and lessen snoring, these exercises include shifting the tongue's position. This includes tongue push-up and push-down, tongue slides, and stretch exercises. Holding the tongue in this position for a few seconds will assist to tone the tongue's muscles and may lessen snoring.

Alternate nose breathing and diaphragmatic breathing exercises can also be used to treat sleep apnoea.

Tips for effective breathing exercises

Finding a comfortable position

Regardless of whether you choose to sit or lie down, it's crucial to find a position that enables you to unwind and concentrate on your breathing. To determine which position suits you the most, you might want to try out a few different ones. Semi-fowler’s position is commonly suggested for breathing exercises. This position allows maximum chest expansion and minimal work of breath by positioning the body in a gravity-assisted position.17,18

Practising regularly

You should ideally practice these exercises daily for 5 to 10 minutes.19 Breathing exercises work best when done consistently, just like any other type of exercise. Try to allocate some time each day to work on your breathing techniques. To help you develop a pattern, you might find it beneficial to block off a set time each day, such as right before bed or in the morning.

Focusing on the breath

Aim to block out all other thoughts so that you may concentrate entirely on your breathing. To stay concentrated, you might find it useful to close your eyes or concentrate on a particular item. Incorporating imagination into your breathing exercises is another method that may be beneficial. You may also find playing relaxing music useful.


Breathing exercises are a quick and easy technique to relax, enhance lung function, and lower tension and anxiety. But, it's crucial to perform these exercises correctly to obtain the maximum benefit from them. You may get the most out of your breathing exercises and experience all of their advantages by using the advice in this article. Breathing exercises may be a useful addition to your daily routine, regardless of whether your objective is to relieve stress, enhance lung function, or simply relax and unwind.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises & Techniques | Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Available from:
  2. Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises [Internet]. Physiopedia. Available from: 
  3. Kripalu ATB TB is a, living P trained yoga instructor, Asheville teaching in, studied NT has, Yoga TMS of, books has completed a 500-hour APY training T has been serving as the ED of Y com since 2000 H has authored two yoga, et al. Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breath or Equal Breathing) [Internet]. Yoga Basics. 2021. Available from: 
  4. Box Breathing Benefits and Techniques [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Available from: 
  5. Weil A. Three breathing exercises. DrWeil. com. 2017 May.‌
  6. Alternate Nostril Breathing: How & Why To Practice [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Available from: 
  7. Pursed Lip Breathing [Internet]. Physiopedia. Available from: 
  8. Kapalabhati Breathing Technique | Ventuno Yoga and You [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from: 
  9. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from:
  10. How to do Bhastrika | Pranayama | Breathing Exercise | Yogalates with Rashmi [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from: 
  11. What is Bhastrika pranayama & It’s Benefits [Internet]. The Yoga Institute. 2018 [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from: 
  12. Breath Retraining [Internet]. Asthma Australia. Available from: 
  13. Physical Activity. tion, breath, puff, inhale, exhale [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from: 
  14. Breathing Exercises for COPD [Internet]. Tufts Medical Center Community Care. Available from: 
  15. Breathing Exercises for COPD | UM BWMG - Pulmonary Care [Internet]. Available from: 
  16. Jensen DD. Exercises to Help Obstructive Sleep Apnea [Internet]. Sound Sleep Medical. 2021 [cited 2023 Apr 12]. Available from: 
  17. Zhu Q, Huang Z, Ma Q, Wu Z, Kang Y, Zhang M, et al. Supine versus semi-Fowler’s positions for tracheal extubation in abdominal surgery-a randomized clinical trial. BMC Anesthesiology. 2020;20(1).‌
  18. NCLEX Terminology | Nurse Plus [Internet]. NCLEX Practice Tests. Available from: 
  19. American Lung Association. Breathing Exercises | American Lung Association [Internet]. 2021. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Rida Peerzada

Msc Global Healthcare Management, University College London

Rida is a Physical Therapist, with a background in marketing and business strategy honing these skills through her start-up ventures. Rida has 3 years of clinical and nearly 3 years of marketing and content creation experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818