Breathing techniques are a form of breathwork used to improve well-being by reducing your stress response and easing anxiety. These breathing techniques bring awareness to your diaphragm, nostrils, lips, and thoughts to reduce stress.

Next time you’re feeling stressed, there are 10 calming breathing exercises for anyone to try. Learn how to use breathing techniques to ease stress and anxiety. 

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Breathing Techniques Practical for Any Situation

Deep breathing techniques that involve engaging your diaphragm or belly can be done anywhere to help reduce stress, anxiety, and even curb panic attacks. Make sure you are comfortable without restrictive or too-tight clothing.

Simple Deep Breathing

The goal of simple deep breathing is to breathe deeply into your belly without forcing it to fill with air.

Try these steps:

  1. Breathe in gently through your nose, counting from one to five.
  2. Exhale slowly through your nose, counting from one to five again.
  3. Continue the calming breathing exercise for at least 5 minutes.

Practice Makes Progress

You may not be able to reach five counts of breathing or exhaling at first, but with practice, your breathing capacity will improve.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing is particularly useful for people living with shortness of breath from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or other lung conditions.

Try these steps:

  1. Sit or stand with your neck and shoulders relaxed.
  2. With your mouth closed, inhale through your nostrils for a count of two.
  3. Exhale slowly and steadily through your mouth for four seconds, puckering your lips as if blowing a kiss.

Box Breathing

Box breathing is a four-sided approach in which each “side” is a step with the same amount of completion time. Picture yourself visually creating a box with your breath.

Try these steps:

  1. Exhale slowly to a count of four.
  2. Hold the empty lungs for a four-count.
  3. Inhale slowly to a count of four.
  4. Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four.
  5. Exhale and begin the steps again.

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

Alternate-nostril breathing techniques (ANB), or Nadi Suddhi pranayama, involves inhaling slowly through one nostril at a time while closing the other nostril manually (i.e., with your fingertip).

Try these steps:

  1. Sit with your legs crossed in a comfortable position.
  2. Place left hand on left knee for support.
  3. Lift right hand toward nose while exhaling completely.
  4. Use your right thumb to block off your right nostril.
  5. Inhale through your left nostril, hold a short pause, and then close the left nostril with your fingers.
  6. Exhale, repeating steps for each nostril.

Lion’s Breath

Lion's breath (Simha pranayama) involves opening your jaw wide, sticking your tongue out, and audibly roaring with your breath. For intermediate Lion's breath, you can stand in the Goddess yoga pose with your arms in the cactus position and skip to step three.

Try these steps:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position.
  2. Spread your fingers on the floor or your knees for support.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose.
  4. Holding the air in your lungs, open your jaw wide and stick out your tongue as far as it will stretch toward your chin.
  5. Exhale forcefully while making a "ha" from your abdomen rather than your throat.
  6. Breathe as usual for a few counts or reps.

You can repeat Lion's breath as needed, being aware of how you feel during the process.

Mindfulness Deep Breathing

Mindfulness breathing involves intentionally bringing awareness to the breath without trying to control the situation.

Try these steps:

  1. Choose a pose that feels right for you.
  2. Place a palm on your belly if it helps keep focus. 
  3. Close your eyes or keep a soft, unfocused gaze.
  4. Breathe in slowly for a few counts, being mindful of the hand rising. 
  5. Hold the air in your lungs for a short pause.
  6. Exhale slowly, paying attention to your hand falling.
  7. Notice how different the inhale and exhale feel. 

Resonance Breathing

Resonance breathing (coherent breathing) involves equal inhalation and exhalation or breaths per minute to improve oxygen supply and reduce stress response.

Try these steps:

  1. Lie down, closing your eyes or softening your gaze. 
  2. Breathe in gently through your nose for a count of 6 seconds or around 6-6.5 breaths per minute. 
  3. Exhale gently with an equal inhalation-exhalation ratio, allowing your breath to slowly leave your body without forcing it.
  4. Continue for up to 20 minutes daily, taking 2-minute break reps.

4-7-8 Breathing

Relaxing breath or the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a quick way to calm the nervous system and help you fall asleep.

Try these steps:

  1. Sit down with your spine straight.
  2. Place your tongue tip against the ridge behind your upper front teeth. You’ll keep this for the exercise duration.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale slowly to a count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale fully, making a “whoosh” sound to a count of eight.

Bellow’s Breath

Bellow's breath (Bhastrika) uses the diaphragm to increase breath capacity and oxygen supply. It is a more intermediate breathwork practice involving a series of active inhalations and exhalations.

Try these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with an elongated, straight spine. 
  2. Take a few deep breaths at an even pace. Start with one breath per second.
  3. Exhale forcefully by contracting the belly quickly.
  4. Inhale deeply, letting your belly or abdominal muscles fully relax.

Experts say you can practice this two to three times per day, being aware it is a vigorous abdominal exercise. Limit yourself to three rounds of seven to 10 breaths, remembering to take breaks. Eventually, you can work up to 120 breaths per round.

Benefits of Breathwork

Breathwork can have positively impact various areas of your life, including the following:

On Emotions

Breathwork has been shown to have a greater impact on calming stress levels than non-breathwork techniques, according to a 2023 review of randomized control trials on breathwork vs non-breathwork techniques for calming stress.

Mindfulness breathing, in particular, can be helpful for coping with big emotions. One 2019 study found a single 20-minute session of mindfulness breathwork was more helpful in reducing perceived levels of suffering in palliative or end-of-life caregivers compared with 20 minutes of supportive listening.

On the Body

The benefits of breathwork extend to every body system. For example, a clinical research review shows regular alternate-nostril breathing has positive outcomes for the autonomic nervous system responsible for heart and lung (cardiopulmonary) systems. The increased supply of oxygen is also associated with increased cognitive functioning.

How Often Should You Do Breathing Techniques?

Including breathwork into your everyday routine is recommended for best results. To help establish a breathwork routine, aim to practice in the same spot once or twice daily.

The ideal amount of time to practice calming breathing exercises each day is around 10-20 minutes.

Summary

Breathwork involves various breathing techniques to help calm the nervous system and improve overall mood and well-being. Practicing daily can help you establish a breathwork routine that can be employed to effectively reduce stress.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Michelle Pugle

Michelle Pugle, MA, MHFA is a freelance health writer as seen in Healthline, Health, Everyday Health, Psych Central, and Verywell.

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