Breathing comes naturally to a lot of people, but many of us could be breathing more effectively. When breathing properly, you should feel relaxed and have steady, controlled breaths. Those of us with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, have difficulties with productive breathing. But factors like stress and anxiety, a change of weather, or even lack of exercise can affect anyone’s ability to breathe properly.
When we experience shortness of breath, anxiety can make it even harder to breathe. Take a few minutes out of your day and find a comfortable place to practice breathing. The more you practice, the easier it will be. These are a few exercises to guide you.
This is a good daily practice or for any time you feel tense.
- Lie comfortably on your back, sit in a chair with your head and shoulders supported, or stand with your elbows positioned slightly back. This will allow your belly to expand more fully.
- Take a deep breath through your nose and let your belly fill with air.
- Hold it for as long as you can.
- Breathe out through your nose.
- Repeat up to 10 times.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This technique helps during difficult parts of physical activity or at the onset of shortness of breath.
It helps to control the rhythm of your breathing.
- Breathe in through your nose normally for 2 seconds.
- Purse (or pucker) your lips as if to whistle or blow out a candle.
- Breathe out for 4 or more seconds (twice as long as you inhaled).
- Repeat several times.
Also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing happens in the diaphragm, which is the main muscle used for breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle that sits below the lungs and helps the lungs expand and contract.
With COPD, air can be trapped and pushed on the lungs, thus causing those with COPD to use more neck, chest, and back muscles to breathe.
This breathing technique offers several benefits to your body including reducing your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate and improving relaxation.
- Lie on a flat surface with your head supported and knees bent.
- Place one hand just below your ribcage and the other on your upper chest over your breastbone.
- Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply. You should feel your stomach move out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
- Repeat as needed.
Coughing is your body’s way of trying to get rid of mucus. But constant, uncontrollable coughing actually