Breathing is a physiological process of fundamental importance to human life and health. Many people view breathing purely automatically, not realizing the negative consequences of improper, that is, shallow and nervous breathing. And yet breathing is a process that we can consciously control and modulate! From the article, you will learn how you should breathe and how you can practice breathing for the benefit of your physical health and well-being.
Table of contents:
- Proper breathing, or what kind of breathing?
- What are the benefits of breathing exercises?
- Who should practice “breathing gymnastics”?
- Breathing exercises – contraindications
- Examples of breathing exercises
You can read this article in 3 minutes.
Breathing is essential for proper gas exchange, or the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Proper breathing ensures that the cells in our body are sufficiently oxygenated. It is assumed that in order to breathe properly, one should breathe in deeply, calmly through the nose and out through the mouth. Breathing in through the nose allows the air to be filtered from various types of impurities, which is one of the elements of preventive health care.
Breathing should be free and without any difficulty. If it is otherwise, it is worth starting to use appropriate breathing exercises, and if this does not help, consult a specialist.
Regular and proper breathing can provide many benefits for physical and mental health. In terms of the benefits of practicing breathing exercises and, consequently, breathing properly, the most commonly mentioned effects are such as:
- improved concentration,
- increased energy levels,
- reduction of stress, anxiety, fears,
- more efficient functioning of individual organs and, as a result, the entire body,
- relaxation and unwinding,
- strengthening of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles,
- improved quality of sleep,
- increased lung capacity, resulting in better condition during physical activity,
- educing the occurrence of shortness of breath.
Breathing exercises can be practiced by anyone who wants to improve not only the functioning of the respiratory system, but also the whole body. There are some contraindications in this regard, but about them in a moment. In a special way, breathing exercises are recommended for those who suffer from a feeling of shortness of breath or who have all sorts of breathing problems.
Breathing gymnastics is also recommended for those who want to improve their fitness and/or relax, de-stress. Not surprisingly, then, breathing and its control are a fundamental part of practices such as yoga and meditation.
Breathing exercises are recommended for people of all ages, especially seniors, for whom adequate oxygenation of the body is particularly important.
As we can read in the literature on respiratory physiotherapy, in addition to a number of indications for the practice of breathing exercises, there are also some specific contraindications. These include severe pulmonary hypertension, stroke, cancer with multiple metastases, acute cardiovascular disease, severe mental illness or significant cognitive impairment. People with those conditions should consult with their doctors if they can practice breathwork.
There are many types of breathing exercises, with the correct technique always being to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Below is a brief description of several of them:
Standard breathing exercise
Take a short and deep inhale, followed by a maximally long exhale until you feel the lack of air. The exhalation can take two or even three times longer than the inhalation. Each exhalation is followed by a 3-second breathing pause. We practice 4-5 repetitions of the exercise in a series so that we do not hyperventilate. We can practice such a series of exercises repeatedly throughout the day.
When we practice breathing, we mainly activate the upper chest area. This is known as thoracic track breathing. We practice in a lying or sitting position. We place our hand on the upper chest area and raise it as we exhale, and then lower it as we exhale. We keep the other hand unchanged placed on the lower part of the chest. We perform shallow, rapid breaths.
Abdominal track breathing, or so-called diaphragmatic breathing, is characteristic in men. During breathing, the diaphragm mainly works, and the abdomen is pushed forward. Lying on the back or sitting, place one hand on the lower part of the chest (near the diaphragm) and raise while inhaling, then lower while exhaling, while the other hand rests motionless on the upper part of the chest.
Breathing exercise for children and adults in speech therapy
This type of breathing exercise uses rib-abdominal track breathing. Work is done in the upper rib muscles and the sternum muscles. This is shallow, even defective breathing. Exercises are done in a lying or sitting position. During the inhalation, short words (e.g., poppy, brother, bridge) are spoken, and during the exhalation, longer words (e.g., bridge, secret, pate) are spoken.
Breathing with a book
Lie down on your back on a flat surface, placing a medium-heavy book on your stomach. Then, while inhaling with our nose, we slightly open our mouth so that the book rises. Then we hold the air for a few seconds and proceed to exhale, through a slightly open mouth, feeling the book fall. To make this exercise more interesting, we can say simple sounds like “sss” or “fff” while exhaling.
We hope that reading the article will result in increased attentiveness to breathing technique and encourage you to do breathing exercises regularly. As we mentioned, it is recommended for all age groups! However, in the case of more serious diseases and ailments, it is worthwhile to consult a specialist to choose the right technique. Good luck and… Cheers!
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- Engelmann M., Frąckiewicz J.: Specific breathing exercises, In: Respiratory physiotherapy. Selected issues / Durmala Jacek, Wądołowski Karol (eds.), 2015, Silesian Medical University in Katowice, pp. 28-40.
- Lewicka T., Rodzeń A.: Rehabilitation-logopedic exercises for people with Parkinson’s disease, Warsaw 2006.
- College Medical Clinic, Breathing Exercises, https://fizjoterapia.kielce.pl/, accessed 12.01.2023.