Three Effective Breathing Exercises for stress management, relaxation, and better health

Breathing is how every cell in our body gets oxygen. This oxygen passes through the bloodstream. At the cellular level, this helps in ATP formation and thus energy production. Breathing is one of the most important involuntary actions. Many times, we are not even aware of our breathing pattern. We only start paying attention to it when we realize we are not getting “enough air”, constantly “out of breath” (AKA SOB), or having difficulty breathing.  Consequently, this turns into a visit to a doctor or ER.   In my previous article, I discussed COPD, which is one of the major disorders that makes people feel out of breath.   Here, I want to discuss a few strategies to perform breathing exercises correctly.

breathing exercise

Effects of Breathing Exercises:

  1. Helps with stress management by slowing down breathing patterns.
  2. Reduces the work of breathing
  3. Relaxes the body
  4. Increases the amount of time you can exercise or perform an activity
  5. Improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and so Helps in oxygenating the body
  6. If done correctly, protects the body from harmful substances
  7. Bringing air to the proper body temperature and moisturizing it to the right humidity level.
  8. keeps airways open longer resulting in the improved ability of lungs to get rid of more stale, trapped air

Types of Breathing exercises:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic Breathing is relaxing and therapeutic, reduces stress, and is a fundamental procedure of Pranayama Yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other meditation practices.

How to perform it:

  • Place one hand on your abdomen. Place one hand on your upper chest.
  • Focus your breathing on your abdomen.
  • As you breathe out, the hand on your abdomen should lower.
  • As you breathe in, the hand on your abdomen should rise.
  • Breathe in through the nose. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
  • Practice this 2 to 3 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes. Start by doing it while lying on your back.

Once you get more comfortable with this, you can do this exercise in sitting, standing or while performing other actions.

Pursed lip breathing

Pursed Lip Breathing is used mainly by people with COPD or other pulmonary disorders. This breathing exercise helps to reduce SOB, by reducing the work of breathing and relieving the strain of chest muscles.

How to perform it:

  • Breathe in through your nose (as if you are smelling something) for about 2 seconds.
  • Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
  • Breathe out very slowly through pursed-lips, two to three times as long as you breathed in.
  • Repeat.

Coughing and Huffing Techniques

Coughing and Huffing Techniques are not actually part of breathing exercises. Usually, a chest physical therapist will teach a person about secretion management with this technique. A speech therapist and respiratory therapist are also involved in teaching the patient how to clear the secretion.

Huff Coughing is a low-pressure cough, which uses a series “mini-coughs” instead of a typical single big cough. With normal coughing, you take in a deep breath, then close the vocal cords in your throat “Voice Box” (called the “Glottis“) to shut off airflow from the lungs. Then, straining with your chest and abdominal muscles you build up high expiratory pressure in your lungs.

Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT):

RMT has an effect on breathlessness, fatigue, and disease-specific quality of life.

Three types of inspiratory muscle trainers:

  1. Non targeted inspiratory resistance trainers
  2. Targeted inspiratory resistance trainers
  3. Normocapnic hyperventilation trainers

The inspiratory muscle training is usually done with an incentive spirometer. It is important that a physical therapist or a clinician is involved in teaching and setting parameters for inspiratory spirometer.

At last, click below to assess handouts for breathing exercises. 

How do you perform/prescribe breathing exercises? Share your thoughts below.



Borge, Christine R.; Hagen, Kare B.; Mengshoel, Anne M.; Omenaas, E.; Moum, T.; Wahl, Astrid K. Effects of Controlled breathing exercise and respiratory muscle training in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from evaluating the quality of evidence in systematic reviews. BMC Pulmonary Medicine. 2014; 14: 184.

Busch, V.; Magerl, W.; Kern, W.; Hass, J.; Hajak, G.; Eichhammer, P. Ther Effect of Deep and Slow Breathing on Pain Perception, Autonomic activity, and Mood Processing-An Experimental Study. Pain Medicine, 2012:13 (2); 215-228.

Sancho, J.; Servera, E.; Diaz, J.; Marin, J. Efficacy of Mechanical Insufflation-Exsufflation in Medically Stable Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Chest Journal. 2004. 125 (4); 1400-1405.

Martarelli, D.; Cocchioni, M.; Scuri, S.; Pompei, P. Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011.

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NOTE: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, dietary supplement, exercise, or other health program.