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Breathing Exercises

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

Are you a belly breather or a chest breather? Most of us have developed poor habits that have turned us into shallow chest breathers.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to train yourself to become a belly breather, you’ve discovered some important physiological benefits that work to improve your health in many ways.

The Diaphragm
The diaphragm is a muscle that separates your chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. It moves down when you relax the belly and take in a deep breath. That gives the lungs additional room to expand. The volume of air the lungs can handle is then increased by as much as 25%. That translates into more oxygen in your blood and greater endurance.

It takes concentration and effort to relax the belly and make it protrude every time you take a breath.
Here is an exercise to try:
1. Sit tall and inhale, allowing the ribs to expand,
2. Continue to inhale, allow the abdomen to expand,
3. Exhale and contract both.

The breath is a major part of your energy system and is probably the simplest, physical means of releasing tension from the mind and body. The most fundamental point is to slow it down.

The important thing to know about breathing is that the way you use your breath can either promote or hinder relaxation. SHALLOW BREATHING will leave you tense and exhausted. CONCENTRATE on pulling the breath deep into the abdomen — RELAX THE BELLY. Here are some great breathing exercises to practice everyday, throughout the day.

Imagine your upper torso as a hollowed-out vase. When inhaling, fill the bottom of the vase first. If you are breathing correctly using your diaphragm muscle, you should feel your abdomen expand when inhaling. When exhaling, release the breath from the top of the vase first. Your abdomen should go back in a little bit as you exhale. As you are taking these deep nourishing breaths take an inventory: Are your shoulders rising and falling? If so, you are using your accessory breathing muscles instead of your diaphragm muscle which is a dome shaped horizontal muscle between the abdominal and chest cavities. Try to use the diaphragm by taking full nourishing breaths.

Take a deep breath in as full as you can, then breathe out as fully as you can by pursing lips and pushing air out through the lips. At the end of this breath and, before you take the next breath, there will be a brief pause. This is the point of greatest relaxation.

Breathe in for count of 2 – and out for the count of 4.
Breathe in for count of 2 – and out for the count of 6.
Breathe in for count of 2 – and out for the count of 8.
Breathe in for count of 2 – and out for the count of 10.

Lean forward from the hip joint while sitting in a chair (or sit in a cross-legged position on the bed if you can). As you come back up to an upright sitting position, sniff deeply in through your nose about 5-6 times. With each Exhale and repeat the sniffing breath practice several times.

Wind: Purse lips like a whistle. Make it sound like the wind.
Snore: Relax lips – blow and let lips puff up, just like snoring.
Sigh – Hush: Relax throat. Open lips and sigh – “Huh” like a hush.
Sound: Relax throat. Open lips and let sound come from back of throat – “ahh”
Voice – Warm-up: Drop pitch in voice from high to low “eehh — aahh”. Open up throat.
Let Go: Say the word in your mind on out-breath –”let go”


In this exercise, as you breathe in, allow the breath to fill you with the positive qualities you want. Emphasize a long deep relaxed inhalation. As you breathe out, allow the long slow exhalation to to dissolve and let go of all the negative states of mind or negative energy that you wish to be free from.  long, slow exhalation, then allow the inhalation to come naturally and effortlessly Place your hands on your belly, and quietly breathe in and out. Allow the belly to rise and fall as the breath flows through you.

Breathe in love, breathe out fear
Breathe in peace, breathe out anger
Breathe in strength, breathe out limitations
Breathe in gentleness, breathe out resentments
Breathe in harmony, breathe out confusion
Breathe in patience, breathe out irritation
Breathe in calm, breathe out tension
Breathe in warmth, breathe out coldness
Breathe in softness, breathe out hardness
Breathe in energy and vitality, breathe out lethargy and apathy
Breathe in hope, breathe out disappointment
Breathe in trust, breathe out doubt
Breathe in joy, breathe out sadness


Wash your hands with a pleasant smelling natural soap (soaps made with natural essential oils are ideal.) Gently rest your cupped hand over your mouth. Inhale deeply through the nose and imagine the air filling up and opening up your heart.    Exhale through your mouth into your hand. As you exhale focus on the sound the breath makes as it passes through your lightly cupped hand and fingers.  Repeat this relaxing breathing exercise several times with each hand, focusing on filling the heart as you inhale through the nose and focusing on the sound of your breath passing through your hand as you exhale through your mouth.

Related Blogs:

The Power of Deep Breathing

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