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Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you feel relaxed? The next time you’re relaxed, take a moment to notice how your body feels. Or think about how you breathe when you wake up in the morning or just before falling asleep. Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they make your body feel like when you’re already relaxed. The time may have come to defend your thesis and you may feel very stressed at this moment. That is why we recommend reading this article with special attention.

What is Breathing?

Breathing is a necessity of life that usually occurs without thinking too much. When air is breathed, blood cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that is returned to the body and exhaled.

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

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to reduce stress on the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to the brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Things that happen when you’re stressed, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and high blood pressure, decrease when you breathe deeply to relax.

The way you breathe affects the whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension and relieve stress.

Breathing exercises are easy to learn. You can make them whenever you want, and you don’t need any special tools or equipment to make them.

You can do different exercises to see which one works best for you.

Shallow breathing contributes to anxiety

When people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come straight out of the chest.

This type of breathing, called thoracic or thoracic breathing, causes an alteration of the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, which translates into an increase in heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension and other physical sensations. The blood is not oxygenated properly and this can indicate a stress response that contributes to anxiety and panic attacks.

Diaphragmatic or deep breathing, on the other hand, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is part of the peripheral nervous system responsible for regulating the heartbeat, blood flow, breathing and digestion. Deep breathing helps you avoid the “fight or flight” response (acute stress response) to mentally or physically frightening situations.

Thoracic breathing vs. abdominal breathing

Most people aren’t really aware of the way they breathe, but in general, there are two types of breathing patterns:

Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing

This type of breathing is a type of deep, even breathing that involves your diaphragm, allowing your lungs to expand and creating a negative pressure that drives air through your nose and mouth, filling your lungs with air. This is how newborn babies breathe naturally. You’re also likely to use this breathing pattern when you’re in a relaxed sleep stage.

Chest (chest) breathing

This type of breathing comes from the chest and involves short, rapid breaths. When you’re anxious, you may not even be aware that you’re breathing this way.

The easiest way to determine your breathing pattern is to put one hand on your upper abdomen near your waist and the other on your chest. When breathing, look at which hand is raised the most.

If you’re breathing properly, your abdomen should expand and contract with each breath (and the hand above it should rise higher).

It’s especially important to be aware of these differences during times of stress and anxiety, when you’re more likely to breathe from your chest.

Breathing exercises

The next time you’re feeling anxious, there are a variety of deep breathing exercises you can try.

Simple breathing exercise

You can perform this exercise as often as needed. It can be done standing, sitting or lying down. If you find this exercise difficult or think it causes you anxiety or panic, leave it for now. Try again within a day or so and increase the time gradually.

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. The abdomen should expand and the chest should be raised very little.

Exhale slowly through your mouth. When expelling air, squeeze your lips slightly, but keep your jaw relaxed. You may hear a soft “hiss” as you exhale.

Repeat this breathing exercise. Do this for several minutes until you start to feel better.10

Sometimes people with a panic disorder initially feel an increase in anxiety or panic when performing this exercise. This may be due to anxiety caused by concentration on breathing, or it may be that you cannot do the exercise properly without some practice.

With alternating nostrils

Alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana) involves blocking one nostril at a time while breathing through the other, alternating the nostrils in a regular pattern.4 It is best to practice this type of breathing in a sitting position to maintain posture.

Place your right hand by bending your index and middle fingers toward your palm, leaving your thumb, ring and little finger extended. This is known as Vishnu mudra in yoga.

Close your eyes or look down gently.

Inhale and exhale to get started.

Close the right nostril with your thumb.

Inhale through the left nostril.

Close the left nostril with your ring finger.

Open and exhale through the right nostril.

Inhale through the right nostril.

Close the right nostril with your thumb.

Open and exhale through the left nostril.

Inhale through the left nostril.

Do your best to perform up to 10 rounds of this breathing pattern. If you start to feel dizzy, pause. Release both nostrils and breathe normally.

Abdominal

According to the American Stress Institute, 20 to 30 minutes of abdominal breathing a day will reduce anxiety and stress. Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lie down. For example, try sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged, or lying on your back with a small pillow under your head and knees.

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

Let the belly relax, without forcing it inward by squeezing or squeezing the muscles.

Breathe in slowly through your nose. The air should move toward the nose and down, so that you feel the belly rise with the other hand and fall inward (towards the spine).

Exhale slowly through slightly pursed lips. Look at the hand on your chest, which should remain relatively still.

Although the frequency of the sequence will vary depending on their state of health, most people start doing the exercise three times and increase until they reach five or ten minutes, one to four times a day.

Boxed

Also known as quad breathing, boxed breathing is very simple to learn and practice. In fact, if you’ve ever noticed that you inhale and exhale to the beat of a song, you’re already familiar with this kind of rhythmic breathing. It is like this:

Exhale counting to four.

Keep your lungs empty for a count of four.

Inhale by counting to four.

Keep the air in your lungs for a count of four.

Exhale and start the pattern again.

Technique 4-7-8

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, also called relaxing breathing, acts as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. At first, it is better to perform the exercise sitting with your back straight. However, once you become familiar with the breathing exercise, you can do it by lying in bed:

Place and hold the tip of the tongue against the ridge of tissue behind the upper front teeth throughout the exercise.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whistling sound.

Close your mouth and inhale calmly through your nose mentally counting to four.

Hold your breath until the count of seven.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to the count of eight.

Of the lion

Lion breathing, or simhasana in Sanskrit, during which the tongue is drawn and roars like a lion, is another useful deep breathing practice. It can help relax the muscles of the face and jaw, relieve stress, and improve cardiovascular functions.

The exercise is best done in a comfortable, sitting position, leaning slightly forward with your hands on your knees or the floor.

Separate your fingers as much as possible.

Inhale through the nose.

Open your mouth wide, stick out your tongue and stretch it to your chin.

Exhale hard, bringing the breath to the root of the tongue.

As you exhale, make a “ha” sound that comes from deep in your abdomen.

Breathe normally for a few moments.

Repeat the lion’s breath up to seven times.

Conscious breathing

Mindfulness meditation is about focusing on the breath and bringing attention to the present without letting the mind drift into the past or future.

Choose a theme that reassures you, such as a sound (“om”), a positive word (“peace”), or a phrase (“inhale the calm, exhale the tension”) to repeat silently as you inhale or exhale.

Let yourself go and relax. When you notice that your mind has strayed, take a deep breath and refocus on the present.

Pursed lips

Pursed lip breathing is a simple breathing technique that will help you breathe deeply more slowly and intentionally. This technique has been proven to benefit people suffering from anxiety associated with lung conditions such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sit in a comfortable position, with your neck and shoulders relaxed.

Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nostrils for two seconds.

Exhale through your mouth for four seconds, pursing your mouth as if giving a kiss.

Keep your breathing slow and steady as you breathe out.

To get the right breathing pattern, experts recommend practicing pursed lip breathing four to five times a day.

Resonance

Resonance breathing, or coherent breathing, can help you enter a state of relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Lie down and close your eyes.

Breathe gently through your nose, with your mouth closed, for six seconds. Do not overfill the lungs with air.

Exhale for six seconds, letting the breath leave the body slowly and gently, without straining it.

Continue for up to 10 minutes.

Take a few more minutes to sit still and focus on how your body feels.

Rolling breathing

Rolling breathing helps you develop full use of your lungs and focus on the rhythm of your breathing. You can perform it in any position. But while you learn, it’s best to lie on your back with your knees bent.

Put your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest. Watch your hands move as you breathe in and out.

Practice filling the lower part of the lungs by breathing so that the hand of the “belly” (the left) rises when inhaling and the hand of the “chest” (the right) remains still. Always breathe in through your nose and breathe in through your mouth. Do it 8 to 10 times.

When you have filled and emptied the bottom of your lungs 8 to 10 times, add the second step to your breathing: inhale first into the bottom of your lungs as before, and then continue to inhale into your upper chest. Breathe slowly and regularly. When doing so, the right hand will rise and the left hand will descend a little when lowering the belly.

Then, as you exhale slowly through your mouth, make a quiet sound, like a whistle, while first your left hand and then your right hand falls. As you exhale, feel the tension leave your body as you relax.

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You may also be interested in: Active listening

Sources Consulted

The American Institute of Stress (2012). Take a Deep Breath. In: https://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath

Kelly, Martta (2021). 10 Easy Breathing Exercises for Anxiety. In: https://www.verywellhealth.com/breathing-exercises-for-anxiety-5088091

4 Breathing Techniques for Better Health. In: https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/4-breathing-techniques-for-better-health0

You might also be interested in: Active listening

Breathing Exercises to Release Stress

Breathing Exercises to Release Stress. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Lutchenca Medeiros @lutchenca

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