13 Breathwork Exercises to Practice Daily for Improved Wellness

breathwork Aug 19, 2021

There’s been a lot of talk about breathwork as a wellness practice lately. For those unfamiliar with the practice, you might be having a hard time understanding the hype. You might even find yourself intimidated by the idea of trying it out. Fortunately, breathwork isn’t as complicated as it might sound.

While there are more advanced practices, there are many quick and easy breathwork techniques that can be incorporated into your daily routine. With regular practice, they will help you improve your overall wellness. If you’re interested in adding breathwork to your daily routine, this article will cover everything you need to know:

  • An Introduction to Breathwork Exercises and Their Benefits
  • 13 Breathwork Exercises to Improve Your Health & Wellbeing
  • 6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Breathwork Exercises Into Your Daily Routine

Before we explore some breathing exercises you can start doing today, we’ll look at why breathwork is incredibly beneficial.

Interested in using an app to practice breathwork? Check out these 35 breathwork apps for guided sessions.

An Introduction to Breathwork Exercises and Their Benefits

Breathwork exercises are a variety of breathing techniques that can be used to improve our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. There are a variety of options available, ranging from quick and easy beginner’s exercises to more advanced and intense spiritual practices. 

There are many breathing exercises benefits to be found when you practice them daily, but here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Strengthens lungs
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves the circulatory system
  • Promotes positive emotions

13 Breathwork Exercises to Improve Your Health & Wellbeing

If you’re wanting to incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routine, you should start with beginner and intermediate-level exercises with proven benefits. Here are some of the top techniques to get you started on your breathwork journey.

1. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also referred to as belly breathing or abdominal breathing, is an easy breathwork exercise that makes use of your diaphragm. This exercise is typically used to help correct our breathing patterns, but has also been proven to be one of the best breathing exercises for anxiety relief (among other benefits). Practicing this exercise regularly will help strengthen the diaphragm and help you create a habit of breathing properly. There are many techniques that can be considered diaphragmatic breathing exercises, but this is the simplest one.

Benefits

  • Strengthens lungs
  • Relieves anxiety
  • Slows your breathing rate
  • Lowers blood pressure

How to do it:

  1. Lie down or sit up straight on a flat surface. Feel free to use a pillow to help you get comfortable.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your upper chest.
  3. Slowly breathe in, drawing the breath towards your stomach. Feel your stomach push out against your hand.
  4. Breathe out, letting your stomach fall as you push the air out. Your chest should remain still the entire time.
  5. Repeat these steps as desired. It is recommended to practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes per session, 3 to 4 times per day.

Try it now: Watch this guided video on diaphragmatic breathing.

2. Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, occasionally called Nadi Shodhana, is one of several Pranayama/yoga breathing exercises that involves controlling how you breathe in and out of your nose. The technique is typically used to improve respiratory functions, but it's been found to offer a wide variety of other benefits for your physical and mental health. A six-week study in 2011 found this technique to be successful in helping improve blood pressure, heart rate, and vital capacity. It's a bit more challenging, but can easily be done anywhere at any time.

Benefits

  • Regulates your nervous system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves oxygen flow
  • Decreases fear and anxiety

How to do it:

  1. Find a quiet location and sit up straight.
  2. Using your right hand, place your thumb on your right nostril.
  3. Keeping the right nostril closed, slowly breathe out of your left nostril.
  4. Lift your thumb and place your ring finger on the left nostril.
  5. Inhale slowly through your right nostril.
  6. Once you’ve finished inhaling, breathe out through your right nostril.
  7. Lift your ring finger and use your thumb to close your right nostril again.
  8. Breathe in slowly through your left nostril.
  9. Exhale through your left nostril again.
  10. Repeat these steps as many times as desired for up to 10 minutes.

Try it now: Watch our guided breathwork session using alternate nostril breathing.

3. Box breathing

The box breathing exercise is also known as 4-4-4-4 breathing, square breathing, or Sama Vritti. It’s a breathwork technique where your inhales, exhales, and pauses last an equal amount of time. It's one of the most popular and recommended exercises for treating a wide variety of issues, all backed by science. Although it's regarded as the more advanced version of the equal breath technique, it's still one of the easiest exercises to do throughout your day.

Benefits

  • Helps you cope with panic and stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps you control hyperventilation
  • Improves focus

How to do it:

  1. Find a comfortable position either sitting, standing, or lying down.
  2. Breathe in for a count of 4, drawing the air into your lungs.
  3. Hold your breath for another count of 4.
  4. Slowly breathe out for another 4 seconds.
  5. Hold your breath again for 4 seconds.
  6. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

Try it now: Watch this guided box breathing exercise.

4. 4-7-8 breathing

4-7-8 breathing is a technique with set times for your inhales, exhales, and pauses. It's one of several recommended breathing exercises for sleep, but a 2011 study found that it also offers a variety of other health benefits. This exercise is a type of rhythmic breathing, which is why it has such a relaxing effect.

Benefits

  • Relieves anxiety
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Reduces asthma symptoms
  • Reduces hypertension
  • Helps manage migraine symptoms

How to do it:

  1. Exhale all of the air out of your lungs.
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  4. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 8, making a “whoosh” sound with your mouth.
  5. Repeat these steps up to 4 times.

Try it now: Follow this guided 4-7-8 breathing exercise.

5. Lion’s Breath

Lion's Breath, also called Simhasana, is a Pranayama exercise that can be done either on its own or combined with other exercises. It’s one of the best breathing exercises for strengthening lungs, and it offers a wide variety of other physical and mental benefits. These include throat and chest stimulation, as well as stress reduction. A 2017 study even demonstrated that it could be used to improve the exercise capacity of COPD patients. Those who practice yoga might combine this exercise with what's known as Lion's Pose.

Benefits

  • Increases energy
  • Relaxes the face and throat
  • Stimulates the vocal cords and diaphragm
  • Helps to eliminate toxins
  • Improves creativity

How to do it:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position.
  2. Lean forward slightly, placing your hands on your knees or the floor with your fingers spread as wide as possible.
  3. Breathe in through your nose.
  4. Open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, stretching it down towards your chin.
  5. Breathe out forcefully, feeling the breath travel across your tongue. Make a “ha” as you do this.
  6. Spend a few minutes breathing as you normally would.
  7. Repeat these steps up to 7 times.
  8. Finish with 1 to 3 minutes of deep breathing.

Try it now: Watch this Lion’s Breath tutorial.

6. Pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a technique used to help slow one's breathing. This breathing exercise for the lungs is predominately used to improve your breathing, but it’s also known to be relaxing. It’s similar to the straw breathing technique, and is great for those struggling with conditions like COPD or asthma. A 2015 study found that pursed-lip breathing was helpful in improving chest wall volumes in COPD patients.

Benefits

  • Improves ventilation
  • Removes trapped air
  • Slows breathing rate
  • Relieves shortness of breath

How to do it:

  1. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 2 seconds, keeping your mouth closed.
  3. Purse your lips as if you were going to blow air.
  4. Breathe out slowly through your lips for 4 seconds.
  5. Repeat these steps as many times as desired.

Try it now: Watch this video on pursed-lip breathing.

7. Resonant breathing

Resonant breathing, also known as coherent breathing, is an exercise specifically for reducing breathing rate. The idea behind the exercise is to keep your breaths per minute (BPM) between 5 and 7 in order to promote proper breathing. This exercise is incredibly beneficial to your physical and mental health, with a 2017 study showing that it improves heart rate variability, blood pressure, and mood.

Benefits

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Helps manage mood
  • Slows heart rate

How to do it:

  1. Breathe in for 5 seconds.
  2. Breathe out for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat as many times as desired.

Try it now: Follow this guided video on resonant breathing.

8. Breath focus technique

Breath focus is a technique that uses imagery and words or phrases as a motivator. This is a great exercise for promoting happiness, relaxation, and positivity. A 2015 study even showed that mindfulness meditations like breath focus helped improve sleep. This technique’s relaxation capabilities have led to it predominantly being a mindfulness exercise, but it also aids in lung health.

Benefits

  • Promotes relaxation
  • Increases happiness
  • Improves lung function
  • Reduces anxiety

How to do it:

  1. Find a comfortable position, either sitting up or lying down.
  2. Pay attention to the way you’re breathing. Try not to change it.
  3. Switch between your normal breathing and deep breathing a few times. Pay attention to how they differ from each other.
  4. Spend a few minutes deep breathing, with one hand placed on your belly, and sighing loudly with every exhale. Pay attention to how your stomach rises and falls as you breathe in and out.
  5. Continue this deep breathing exercise and begin focusing on the image or focus word or phrase of your choice.
  6. Picture waves of calm entering your body as you breathe in. Mentally tell yourself you’re breathing in calm vibes.
  7. Picture any tension and anxiety you’re feeling being washed away with every exhale. Mentally tell yourself to exhale the tension and anxiety.
  8. Continue this for as long as desired, until you feel calm and relaxed.

9. Equal breathing

Equal breathing, also referred to as Sama Vritti, is another Pranayama technique that involves inhaling and exhaling for the same count. It's incredibly easy to do and can be done whenever and wherever. It's considered to be an easier version of the box breathing technique, but is still highly effective at calming the autonomic nervous system and reducing stress.

Benefits

  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Improves focus
  • Improves breathing capacity
  • Relaxes your thoughts

How to do it:

  1. Sit up straight or lie down.
  2. Spend a few minutes paying attention to the way you normally breathe.
  3. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
  4. Breathe out through your nose for another count of 4.
  5. Continue to breathe in and out, following this pattern, as many times as desired. Pay attention to how the air feels as it enters and leaves your lungs.

Try it now: Watch this guided equal breathing exercise.

10. Sitali breath

Sitali breath, sometimes called cooling breath, is another Pranayama breathing technique that is often used to cool down the body. While it helps to regulate body temperature, it also helps with lung health and relaxation. One study even found that regularly practicing Pranayama techniques like Sitali breath could reduce anxiety. Beginners can practice this technique up to 5 times a day and work on increasing it to 10 times a day.

Benefits

  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Reduces fever
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps manage insomnia

How to do it:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Spend a few minutes breathing as you naturally would.
  3. Stick out your tongue and partly curl it vertically, creating a tunnel. Breathe in through the tunnel, paying attention to the cool air entering your mouth, throat, and torso.
  4. Relax your tongue, close your mouth, and breathe out through your nose.
  5. Continue to breathe in and out this way as many times as desired.

Try it now: Watch this guided video on Sitali breath.

11. Humming bee breath

Humming bee breath, or Bhramari, is a Pranayama technique that combines humming with breathing. This breathwork technique is typically recommended as a sleep aid, but can also be used in the morning or during the day to help you relax. It can also help improve your mood and soothe your body. A 2020 study even found that humming bee breath could be used to help relieve symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Benefits

  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Relieves anger
  • Helps induce deep sleep

How to do it:

  1. Sit up straight, either on the floor or in a chair.
  2. As you close your eyes, keep your lips and teeth slightly apart.
  3. Place your thumbs on your ears.
  4. Take a deep breath in.
  5. As you breathe out, begin loudly humming and press down on your ears. You can choose to continuously press down on your ears and press on and off.
  6. Repeat these steps around 3 to 4 times.

Try it now: Watch this guided video on humming bee breath.

12. Skull Shining Breath

Skull Shining Breath, also called Kapalabhati in Pranayama, is a breathing technique to help cleanse the body. It's a more challenging exercise that uses powerful breaths to help improve the respiratory system, help achieve a sense of calm, and gain a variety of other benefits. A 2016 study found it was helpful in treating metabolic syndrome, and suggested it could even help those struggling with PCOS.

Benefits

  • Boosts energy
  • Clears lungs and respiratory system
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Increases metabolism
  • Improves circulation

How to do it:

  1. Sit up straight in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. As you breathe out, use the muscles in your lower belly to force the air out in a short burst.
  4. Relax your abdomen and allow yourself to breathe in.
  5. Do this up to 20 times.
  6. After you’ve completed the round, close your eyes and reflect on the sensations you’re feeling.
  7. Repeat these steps 2 more times or as many times as desired.

Try it now: Watch this guided video on Skull Shining Breath.

13. Victorious breath

Victorious breath, more commonly known as Ujjayi breathing, is a Pranayama technique that promotes mindfulness. This exercise works by having you focus on your breathing in order to calm your thoughts. It's been successfully used to help patients relieve their symptoms and anxiety around cancer, as evidenced by a 2012 study. It can also help ease a variety of other physical and mental health conditions.

Benefits

  • Relieves anxiety
  • Improves concentration
  • Releases tension
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Improves mood

How to do it:

  1. Sit up straight in a comfortable position, grounded to the floor. Relax your shoulders and try to keep your knees level with your hips.
  2. Close your mouth and attempt to constrict the muscles in your throat.
  3. Breathe in, allowing air to pass through your constricted throat. You should be able to hear a friction sound.
  4. Continue to breathe in until your chest feels full.
  5. Hold your breath for around 6 seconds.
  6. With your facial muscles and nose relaxed, breathe out as naturally as possible.
  7. Relax and breathe as you normally would for a few minutes.
  8. Repeat these steps as many times as desired, up to 5 times per day.

Try it now: Follow this guided video on victorious breath.

6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Breathwork Exercises Into Your Daily Routine

If you’re ready to practice breathwork daily, there are several things you can do to work towards building this new habit. Follow these tips to help incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine:

  1. Schedule time(s): Plan the times of day when you want to complete your breathing exercises. This helps you commit to doing them.
  2. Start small: A lot of these exercises take practice, so start with the recommended time lengths and work on extending their duration over time.
  3. Create a reminder: To keep yourself from missing a session, set up a calendar reminder or leave yourself a visual reminder for your breathing exercises.
  4. Take breaks: If you’re struggling to complete an exercise, it’s okay to take a break. Breathe normally and return to your practice after a few minutes. You’re also welcome to get up to do something else and come back to the session later.
  5. Switch it up: Practice a wide range of breathing exercises to keep things exciting. This is especially helpful when you’re still trying to turn breathwork into a daily habit.
  6. Do what you can: If you forgot to do your daily session, feel free to take a few deep breaths whenever you can. Something is always better than nothing.



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