Breathing Exercises

Pursed lip breathing (2-4 method)

Pursed lip breathing has a range of benefits:

  • It's been shown to reduce how hard a person has to work to breathe.
  • It helps release air trapped in the lungs.
  • It promotes relaxation.
  • It reduces shortness of breath.

Practicing this technique 4 to 5 times daily can help. Here's how to practice pursed lip breathing:

  • While keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to 2. Follow this pattern by repeating in your head "inhale, 1, 2." The breath does not have to be deep. A typical inhale will do.
  • Put your lips together as if you are starting to whistle or blow out candles on a birthday cake. This is known as "pursing" your lips.
  • While continuing to keep your lips pursed, slowly breathe out by counting to 4. Don't try to force the air out, but instead breathe out slowly through your mouth.

Exercise tip: Pursed lip breathing is best for performing strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs

The 5-5 Method

This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.

You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.

You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.

If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.

If you're sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.

If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
  • Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
  • Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.

The 7-11 Technique

Do you suffer from anxiety, nerves, or shortness of breath?

Do you struggle to get to sleep or get back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night?

A simple breathing technique called "7-11 Breathing" can dramatically reduce the symptoms of anxiety without the need for medication or a degree in psychology.

The technique is as follows:

1) Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit and relax.
2) It helps, when you are first practicing, to sit in front of a mirror so that you can see your progress.
3) Sit comfortably either on a cushion or a chair with your shoulders relaxed and your hands folded gently over your tummy.
4) If possible breathe in and out through your nose. Breathe in for a count of 7 seconds and out for a count of 11 seconds (if you find it too hard to breathe out for so long, start off with 3/6 seconds and work up to 7/11 seconds). The most important thing here is to breathe out longer than you breathe in.
5) If you are doing it correctly, your shoulders will remain still and your tummy will get bigger and smaller as you breathe (called belly or diaphragmatic breathing). If you sit in front of a mirror you can keep an eye on your shoulders and tummy.
6) Once you can keep your shoulders still and relaxed without effort it is a good idea to close your eyes and try to picture the numbers in your mind to help you concentrate completely on your breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing

The diaphragm is an important muscle involved in the work of breathing. Often people with respiratory conditions or asthma rely more on the accessory muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back to breathe, rather than on the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing helps to retrain this muscle to work more effectively. Here's how to do it:

  • While sitting or lying down with your shoulders relaxed, put a hand on your chest and place the other hand on your stomach.
  • Take a breath in through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling your stomach move outward. You're doing the activity correctly if your stomach moves more than your chest.
  • Purse your lips and breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach. This will enhance your diaphragm's ability to release air.
  • Repeat the exercise as you are able to.