We’ve never really paid much attention to our breathing until we’re having problems with it. After all, breathing is automated. The mere fact that you are alive and well means that you’re breathing just fine. However, this is not the case all the time.
Breathing problems can occur when your lungs are not functioning properly.
Lung problems can develop with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, which are treated through specific medications. In short, breathing difficulty is a clear sign that the lungs are in trouble.
As your lung health is rapidly affected by pulmonary medical conditions, the American Lung Association recommends breathing exercises to increase the efficiency of lung function.
Research also showed that breathing exercises are practical home-based pulmonary rehabilitation techniques that help patients with COPD.
These findings suggest that as breathing exercises are great for recovery from respiratory disease, they are even better for maintaining robust lung health.
Why You Should Perform Mindful Breathing
The very nature of breathing makes it easy to be overlooked. However, it is hard not to notice breathing problems because they bring frightening discomfort.
But understanding subtle problems in breathing is an effective way to improve your general health and wellness. This idea has become the foundation for many mindful meditation techniques that encourage holistic health.
If you pay more attention to your breathing and employ the correct way to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, your body will benefit from optimum organ functions. Likewise, it also dramatically improves your mental health.
Benefits of Breathing Exercises
The ability to control your breathing correctly can bring plenty of health benefits to your physical and mental state.
Here are some of the advantages you can expect once you do regular breathing exercises:
- Increased Lung Capacity
Breathing exercises allow the release of trapped air in the lungs, making more space for fresh oxygen. Furthermore, it promotes muscular expansion in the chest wall that increases lung volume significantly.
- Increased Oxygen Intake
Since breathing exercises lead to better lung capacity, they can accommodate more oxygen for the body to use. And as we all know, oxygen is an essential element for various significant cellular functions. This means that the more oxygen is delivered, the fewer health problems there are.
- Improved Respiratory Muscle Strength
When you perform breathing exercises, you put your respiratory muscles to constant practice. This, in turn, will make your lungs more robust and less vulnerable to harsh environmental conditions.
- Enhanced Brain Function
Several studies have shown the positive relationship between optimum pulmonary function and improved brain activities. While the definitive link between these two physiologies is still under research, it is primarily believed that the increased oxygen delivered to the brain is a significant factor.
- Stress Relief
Whether you are under loads of pressure or tension, an effective go-to stress release is an uninterrupted breathing exercise. Research has shown that after diaphragmatic breathing, the level of cortisol is decreased. Cortisol is the hormone released during stressful situations.
Diseases Associated with Breathing Problems
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, abnormal breathing became a topic of concern. Since the coronavirus primarily affects lung function, shortness of breath is one of the prominent symptoms of the infection.
Furthermore, people afflicted with respiratory diseases are more susceptible to developing the said deadly disease. Thus, those who survived COVID-19 still need to undergo a critical recovery time, especially if there have been any lung injuries.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, breathing exercises can help a patient improve lung capacity and function. But, of course, this is through the recommendation and approval of your doctor.
But even before the coronavirus brought a global health catastrophe, breathing troubles are already rampant for those suffering from several medical conditions. These include the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lung infections
- Lung cancer
- Panic and anxiety attacks
On the other hand, here are common symptoms indicating breathing problems:
- Chronic coughing
- Inability to talk
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
Breathing Exercises You Can Do At Home
If you’re not a fan of vigorous aerobic exercises, you can take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to deal with the same level of strain with breathing exercises.
But, naturally, these exercises are still best paired with regular physical activities if you’re seeking the best results.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing (DB) involves the entire diaphragm. The diaphragm is a vital muscle for lung function. Hence, ensuring that it is fully working improves lung health.
Aside from the pulmonary benefits you get from diaphragm breathing, it can also improve other aspects of your health.
For starters, research revealed that DB relieves both physical and psychological stress. Furthermore, it also helps in alleviating eating disorders, hypertension, and chronic functional constipation.
How to Do a Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Find a comfortable place to either sit down or lie on your back.
- Place one hand mid-chest and the other on your stomach above the diaphragm.
- Breath through your nose, slowly bringing in the air towards your stomach. You should feel your stomach stretch outward through your hand while your chest remains steady.
- When you exhale, slowly press your stomach, and allow the abdominal muscles to tighten. Make sure your lips are pursed as if you’re drinking from a straw.
- Repeat the process several times.
Yoga has plenty of therapeutic effects. So naturally, you will get the full benefits of yoga if you follow its principles and practices. And one of its critical components is Pranayama or breath regulation.
Pranayama is said to restore balance within your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual state.
While yoga can be traced back thousands of years ago through the Indian culture, the yoga breathing techniques continue to serve as a powerful tool for maintaining optimum pulmonary health.
In a narrative review published at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it was mentioned that yoga breathing continues to improve neurocognitive functions, reduce detrimental biochemicals in the body, combat oxidative stress, keep the blood pressure low, and prevent chronic diseases.
Generally, pranayama involves simple deep breathing. But as you progress in practice, you’ll get to learn more advanced and rhythmic breathing techniques.
You have to be in a meditative position sitting on the floor while your spine remains relaxed and erect to initiate yoga breathing. Basic yoga breathing often involves slow breathing.
Here are three of the most common yoga breathing you can do at home:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
This type of breathing is often practiced to relieve stress, anxiety, and even panic attacks.
Begin by inhaling deeply through your left nostril while your right thumb presses on your right nostril. Once you’re about to exhale, take off your thumb from the right nostril to release the air while closing your left nostril.
Start again but this time inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your left. Repeat the process for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Ocean’s Breath
Another yoga breathing that can soothe your mind and strengthen your respiratory muscle is the ocean’s breath. The name is derived from the sound which this breathing produces, similar to ocean waves.
First, take a deep breath. When you exhale, make sure that your mouth is closed, allowing the air to pass through the nasal airway. You can feel the air passing through your windpipes while your throat is constricted.
- The Cooling Breath
If you have asthma, bronchitis, tension headaches, and chronic constipation, you are recommended to practice the cooling breath.
Start by rolling your tongue, forming a passageway in between the edges of the tongue. Deeply inhale through the fold. Before you exhale, close your mouth, and hold the air for eight counts. Exhale through your nose.
If you’re having trouble with other forms of breathing exercises, you can start with one of the simplest ones like the pursed-lips breathing. This breathing technique allows your windpipes to remain steady as you engage in slow breathing.
How to Do Pursed-lips Breathing
- Relax your shoulders.
- Slowly take a deep breath through your nostrils for 2 seconds. Next, purse your lips through this process.
- Exhale slowly through your pursed lips for about 4 seconds.
- Repeat the process.
Other Ways You Can Improve Your Lung Health
Breathing exercises are highly recommended to keep holistic health.
Nonetheless, when it comes to its proven respiratory benefits, these exercises will not produce the best results without other essential health interventions.
Here are other ways you can improve your lung health.
- Quit smoking
- Stay away from polluted areas
- Get vaccinated for seasonal and common respiratory diseases
- Exercise regularly
- Eat foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties
Keeping your lungs healthy and functioning well requires a conscious decision to regulate your breathing.
While we often neglect regular exercise because of physical requirements, breathing exercises are relatively simple to do. Of course, it provides a great deal as the process is painless, but the benefits cover many aspects of your health.
Start with simple breathing techniques and repeat them regularly.
If you experience any trouble breathing along with other notable symptoms, contact your doctor immediately so you can secure the proper blood tests and treatment.