Guided Breathing Exercises: 19 Best Breathing Exercises Calm Your Mind & Body

Health and wellness can be impacted heavily by the things you do. Although you can’t prevent or treat every issue on your own, there are healthy habits you can form that will have a positive effect on your body and mind. The habit I want to talk to you about today is deep, guided breathing exercises.Breathing exercises refer to any structured, guided steps taken to control your own breathing patterns. They can be used in a variety of situations to create different reactions in the body. In many cases, they are used for mental health benefits, but they can also help with some physical conditions.

Breathing exercises are well-known in some contexts, such as with the practice of yoga, meditation, or martial arts. In these contexts, breathing exercises are made to sound spiritual or ethereal. In reality, there is scientific evidence and studies that show the specifics of breathing exercises and how they can actually affect your body negatively and positively.

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My purpose in writing this guide is to help you take advantage of every tool your body has to combat mental and physical illnesses. Not every issue can be handled by guided breathing, but if you have a condition that can be helped, this guide will assist you by presenting the most recent and relevant professional advice on guided breathing. This will include the potential benefits, how to prepare for breathing exercises, techniques to help with certain conditions, and mistakes to avoid.

Guided Breathing Exercises: List Of The Best Breathing Exercises

Benefits Of Breathing Exercises You Can Experience Right Now

Deep breathing exercises offer benefits for a wide range of mental and physical health problems. Most people have heard about the benefits for stress and anxiety, but this is only part of the affect that proper guided breathing can have on the body.

All the benefits of guided breathing depend on the particular exercises you do. Metabolic breathing, which is what we call the state of natural breathing without any conscious action, must be replaced with voluntary breathing in order for breathing exercises to work as they should. By changing the speed and depth of your breathing, by slowing or quickening it as instructed, you can create a desirable reaction in your body.

Many targeted breathing exercises induce what’s called the relaxation response. When used in certain situations – such as in response to stress, anxiety, or high blood pressure – this bodily reaction can create a more favorable state of body and mind by re-adjusting your blood flow, heart rate, and mental state into a more positive one. Blood flow to your brain will increase, your muscles will relax, blood pressure will drop, and your heart rate will slow down.

This is just one example of a specific type of breathing exercise that will positively impact your body and mind. There are many other guided breathing exercises that work to impact various conditions and mental states. We will go over the individual benefits of each exercise we explain below.

Preparing To Do Breathing Exercises

You shouldn’t just read the steps and start doing a breathing exercise right away. If you want the full benefits of your chosen exercise, you need to be prepared for it before you start. This involves just a few short steps:

1. Set aside time for yourself

You need to create a set time for yourself to do your exercises each day that you choose to do it. It doesn’t have to be daily, and you don’t have to do the exercises at the same time each day. Just carve a bit of time out for yourself in the morning, afternoon, or evening to do the exercises.

Note: Be responsible with your time. Don’t do breathing exercises any time that you need to be fully alert and aware, since most exercises will leave you feeling a little drowsy. You will get the best effects if you practice the exercises while you’re alert and aware, and in a position that relaxation is okay. Never practice while driving, after eating a heavy meal, or in combination with drugs or alcoholic beverages.

2. Prepare a clean, calm environment

Choose a place that’s as far from noise as possible, and isn’t cluttered up with junk. This can be difficult for parents with children at home, or for those living in small corridors, but do the best you can. If you set aside a small space for yourself that’s clean and comfortable, you’ll be more likely to want to return to it.

3. Straighten your back and relax your muscles

Sit with your legs crossed and your back straight. If you have back problems, you can proper yourself up on a stack of pillows or something similar, as long as your back is straight and you and sitting comfortably. You can even lie down flat on your back, with a small pillow under your lower back, if this suits you the best.

To relax your muscles, focus on them one by one by tensing a part of your body for a few seconds, then relaxing it. You don’t have to do it by individual muscles, and can save time by relaxing larger sections of your body at once.

4. Avoid tempting yourself to sleep

Breathing exercises can sometimes be so relaxing that you begin to feel sleepy. While breathing is a great way to relax, you won’t get the full breathing exercise benefits if you sleep before completing them! If you’re feeling tired, keep your eyes open and sit up as much as possible. Let a bit of light into the room, instead of dimming the lights.

5. Feel your breathing, and practice taking deep breaths

Take deep breaths for a minute and simply focus on your breath. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. You should feel your abdomen and lower chest area expand outwards while you inhale and shrink backwards again while you’re exhaling.

Once you’ve finished these steps, you should be fully prepared to start your breathing exercises. If you’ve never done them before, you may want to spend at least one whole session time focusing on your deep breaths and feeling your normal breathing. This way you’ll be more used to the feel of voluntary breathing, and will be prepared to follow a guided script.

You can also watch this instructional video about breath training. It’s talking specifically about yoga breathing, but the practical steps he mentions can be applied to regular breathing exercises as well:

Choose The Right Breathing Exercise For You

There’s no one breathing exercise that’s superior to all others. One exercise will not work for every condition or mental state. Choose the right exercise based on what you want to accomplish or the condition that’s bothering you. Below you’ll find an explanation for breathing exercises that work for 8 different mental and physical conditions. You’ll see the benefits of the exercises, and how to do them step-by-step. Read through to see if there’s something there to fit your needs:

Breathing Exercises For Asthma

The European Respiratory Society released a study that shows the strong link between breathing re-training and proper treatment of asthma. Normal management techniques with meditation are not effective enough for a higher quality of life, and would be enhanced if combined with simple breathing exercises like these:

Exercises 1: Stomach & Nose Breathing

Benefits: This breathing technique helps to calm the symptoms of asthma. It’s useful if you feel an attack coming on, or for regular daily relief from symptoms.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2: Pursed Lip Technique

Benefits: This method can help you to stop an impending asthma attack. It has been used as a first response to try before resorting to rescue medications. Breathing like this releases stale air that may have become trapped in your lungs, and it will begin to restore your normal breathing pattern.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For COPD And Lung Problems

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.”

​The exercises I’m going to talk about here cover a broad spectrum of progressive lung diseases. Unless stated otherwise, they do not apply only to one specific lung disease, but can be used for most people diagnosed with COPD.

Exercises 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Benefits: This method of breathing trains your body to breathe using your diaphragm rather than your chest, shoulder, and abdomen muscles. This is a more efficient and effective style of breathing, and it can help when you’re feeling short of breath.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Nose Breathing

Benefits: This method is going to help you regain control of your breathing when you start to feel short of breath.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 3:  Blow As You Go

Benefits: Most people with COPD lose their breath most frequently when doing certain strenuous activities. This method helps you to prevent losing your breath, but practicing controlled breathing during these activities.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Pregnancy

While there aren’t any breathing exercises specific to pregnant women during normal pregnancy, there are plenty of helpful breathing exercises that can help during labor and birth. If you are stressed during your labor, you are more likely to experience stronger pain than if you can relax your body through techniques like breathing exercises.

Here are some of the most recommended breathing exercises for each stage:

Exercises 1: Slow Breathing

Benefits: Slow, deep breaths during contractions will help you to manage the pain and control your body through relaxation.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Expulsion Breathing

Benefits: This breathing technique works to keep your lower pelvic region relaxed as your contractions intensify. It should be used when it’s not yet time to push the baby out, but the contractions have gotten more intense.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 3:  Breathing While Pushing

Benefits: Many women tend to hold their breath while, but because this can be harmful to the baby and keep you from pushing as well as possible, it’s best to practice specific breathing patterns.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Smokers

Smokers and those who have or are attempting to quit smoking need different exercises to help the lungs rejuvenate and work to a fuller capacity. Current smokers can work to increase the effectiveness of each breath, especially during exercise or activity, in order to get more oxygen around the body. Those quitting smoking can use breathing exercises as a way to build up lung strength and capacity again.

Exercises 1: Coordinated Breathing

Benefits: This breathing method is useful when you’re in the process of doing a physical activity. Since this is the time that most smokers lose breath easily, this breathing technique will help to reduce stress and loss of breath during activity.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Pursed Lip Breathing

Benefits: Smokers tend to have weaker lung function than others. For this reason, it’s important to do breathing exercises that help to encourage a fuller lung capacity and get more oxygen around the body. This breathing exercise helps to accomplish that.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 3:  Diaphragmatic Breathing

Benefits: Your lung capacity will be weaker, even as an ex-smoker, for as long as 10 years after you quit. Diaphragmatic breathing helps you to strengthen the lungs again and breathe more deeply.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Stress

Stress is a huge problem for many people, but the right breathing patterns can do wonders to calm your heart rate and reduce the physical and mental strain of stress.

Exercises 1: Quieting Response

Benefits: This method can be done in less than a minute, and it will help you control your stress reaction as it happens.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Quick, Deep Breaths

Benefits: Doing deep breaths in rapid succession helps to slow your heart rate and lower you blood pressure, both of which can reduce your stress levels. It also helps relax your muscles.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Anxiety

According to a study performed by Southern Methodist University, the real danger for those with anxiety is fluctuation of CO2 levels in the body through hyperventilation. This rapid, shallow breathing by the body promotes fear and worry and increases symptoms of anxiety, especially during an attack.

To combat this, it’s useful to learn breathing practices that will allow you to control your breathing during an anxiety attack. While it may not completely eliminate the symptoms, they will become less intense and may subside more quickly.

Exercises 1: Deep Breathing

Benefits: By the time you’ve completed 5 – 10 deep breaths, your body will begin to feel more relaxed and the tension will start to subside. With practice, each breath will feel more relaxing than the last, and you can continue this technique throughout an anxiety attack to try to regain composure.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Advanced Inhale-Exhale-Hold Breathing

Benefits: This method helps you to get enough oxygen flowing around your body while also stabilizing CO2 levels.

TIP: Do not do this breathing technique if you have a heart condition. It’s a good idea to practice this every day, so that when an anxiety attack comes, you are prepared to do it. Otherwise, you may not be able to do it when it’s needed most.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea patients usually stop or severely reduce breathing while sleeping. The lack of oxygen coming in and the increase in CO2 causes sudden waking from sleep, usually to gasp for breath. Breathing exercises cannot cure sleep apnea completely, but they can train your body to breathe properly on its own and to regain sleep more quickly by bringing in more oxygen after waking up.

Exercises 1: Simple Deep Breathing

Benefits: This method teaches you to take equally long inhalations and exhalations. If you train your body enough, you will do this automatically upon waking up, and it will help you get back to sleep more quickly.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Buteyko Method

Benefits: This method will help to train your body to breathe comfortably through your nose. Positive effects can be seen for both snoring and some sleep apnea sufferers.

TIP: Out your tongue against the top of your mouth to help reduce the urge to breathe through your mouth.

HOW TO DO IT

Breathing Exercises For Headaches

Headaches and migraines have many different triggers, some of which remain a mystery today. But, despite how they come about, breathing exercises can be effective in calming the symptoms and relieving pain.

Exercises 1: Rhythmic Breathing

Benefits: This method will help you to steady your breathing if it is too fast or slow because of the pain. It will help restore a proper breathing pattern.

HOW TO DO IT


Exercises 2:  Visualized Breathing

Benefits: You will be combining the positive effects of deep breathing with visual relaxation techniques for a maximum impact.

HOW TO DO IT

Mistakes To Avoid During Breathing Exercises

It’s difficult to get breathing exercises right the first few times you do them. But, you can try to stem the flow of mistakes by informing yourself on some of the common mistakes that are made while practicing breathing exercises.

1. ​Counting Too Quickly

​If you are supposed to inhale, exhale, or hold your breath for a certain count, it’s not wise to count too quickly. This can cause accidental hyperventilation, leading to dizziness and feeling faint or out of breath.

To help with this, look at a clock that shows seconds while you’re practicing your breathing exercises. You will quickly learn how long a second should be, and after some time it will come completely naturally to you.

​2. Poor Abdomen Breathing

Almost all breathing exercises call for diaphragmatic, or “belly” breathing. This involves inhaling and expanding the lungs downwards, instead of keeping the air high up in the chest. Many people do not execute this properly, and will either move their chest too much or not at all.

If your chest isn’t moving even a little bit, you may be pushing the air too far down into your belly. This can be uncomfortable and feels very unnatural for your diaphragm. Similarly, if your chest moves more than your belly or the same amount, you may be using your chest muscles too much.

Fix this problem by monitoring the movement of your chest versus your belly and learn to balance it out. The belly should be moving significantly more than the chest, but the chest should also move slightly up and down in the same rhythm.

3. Holding Your Breath

During breathing exercises, it can be tempting to hold your breath for a long time after inhaling a long drag of air. This practice can unbalance the CO2 levels in your body and reduce the actual benefits of the exercise you’re doing.Instead of holding your breath, practice doing a short, controlled pause of no more than 2 seconds between inhaling and exhaling.

However, you should follow the steps to a breathing exercise precisely to get the best benefits, including if the exercise tells you to hold your breath (Example: Advanced Inhale-Exhale-Hold Breathing). If instructions to hold your breath are not given, assume that the exercise doesn’t require it and don’t hold your breath.

4. Breathing With Your Chest

Your lungs should be expanding from the diaphragm pulling air into them. If you are using your chest to breathe, your shoulders and upper body will lift as you’re taking a deep breath. This indicates improper breathing, and it should be corrected if you want success from breathing exercises.

To fix the problem, practice belly breathing using the Diaphragmatic method. This can be done by anyone, and it helps you to train your body to breathe properly into the belly, not the chest.

5. Inhaling Through Your Mouth

It’s common for people without breath training experience to breathe with their mouths exclusively. This habit encourages poor airflow to the lungs and can negatively impact the throat by drying it out.Inhaling through the nose helps to correct this problem. The nasal passages are the quickest way to bring air to the lungs, and they also warm up the air that’s headed to your lungs to avoid cold shock.

Unless the exercise states otherwise, inhale through your nose and not your mouth. If you have clogged nasal passages, an injury that obstructs the airways, or another issue with your nasal passages you may have to inhale through your mouth out of necessity.

6. Sucking In Your Gut While Inhaling

It’s tempting to try to pull the air into your lungs while you’re breathing but tensing up the abdominal muscles and making a pulling sensation. Actually, this is an improper breathing technique that will cancel out most of the benefits of breathing exercises.

Instead of tensing your abdominal muscles, let your breath flow naturally and gently down to the bottom of your lungs, and feel as it naturally expands your belly instead of contracting it. Taking slow, controlled, and counted breaths helps you to get the right feel in the motion of your breath.

7. Tucking Your Chin Inwards

Slumping over, especially tilting your head and chin forward, are common because of the use of cell phones, computers, and other pieces of technology we use daily. This can cause you to close off your airways and restrict proper breathing.While you’re practicing breathing exercises, make sure your back is straight and your neck is not tilted downwards.

Some exercises call for you to tilt your chin upwards to open up your airways even more, but that’s not necessary for every exercise. This posture adjustment is necessary for effective breathing.

8. Shallow Breathing

Stress and bad habits can make you breathe shallow breaths. These types of breaths do not fully release all the air in your lungs, and can have a negative impact on your body by upsetting your normal oxygen and CO 2 levels.

Correct this issue by learning to breathe fully in and out. When you’re inhaling, don’t do it quickly and sharply. Fill your lungs with air. Exhale fully to release all of the air from your lungs without forcing it out. This can be trained through good technique during breathing exercises.

Bonus: Tools, Apps And Books To Help You Get Started

Want some help getting started with breathing exercises and their benefits? Here are a few resources you can use to assist you in starting your journey to better mental and physical health through breathing exercises:

Conclusion

Breathing exercises bring a positive impact to your body through their various applications. There are exercises for almost every physical or mental condition that affects the lungs or breathing patterns, and you can use these techniques to help calm symptoms or strengthen your body.

The exercises I’ve noted for you are all clinically proven to be effective. They are not simply anecdotal exercises that made a few people feel good once or twice. If you have any of the issues listed above, you can most likely experience the benefits given by each exercise.

This guide is meant to assist you by giving you ideas about natural treatment options. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about whether or not breathing treatments are a good idea for you. People with heart disease or a history of heart problems should avoid most breathing exercises, as many heart conditions can be made worse by the changes in heart rate caused by controlled breathing.

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Anna Smith
 

Hi there ! I’m Anna Smith, chief editor at Healthankering. I'm a proud mother of three passionate about health tips, beauty and ways to live healthier with more energy ! We start Healthankering to provide advanced material about not only the best ways to get healthy, but also to entertain and create a great community. Welcome aboard !

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