In this day and age, many of us are spending increasingly more time in front of screens. Our work forces us to be gazing at screens for 8 hours a day. We are always connecting with our friends on social media, video chatting with our loved ones now more than ever, or watching a movie with our children. With this sedentary lifestyle, we can start developing pains in our body because of these prolonged postures. What we may not realize is how our posture affects our breathing. Sitting with the classic rounded shoulders and forward head posture often results in “upper chest breathing”. This involves excessive use of our neck and shoulder muscles, and less use of the diaphragm with breathing. In addition, so many of us have suffered from respiratory infections in the past few years, including COVID-19 variants, which can make breathing hard.
Diaphragmatic breathing has many positive impacts on the body: allows the lungs to fill more fully, is more efficient and requires less work to get oxygen in the body, stimulates relaxation and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Good breathing practices can also facilitate healing and immune system function, as it helps get more oxygen taken into the body. Oxygen is necessary for so many biological processes in the body, especially during the healing process of any injury in the body.
To Start Training Diaphragmatic Breathing
Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
Take a deep breath through your nose. For diaphragmatic breathing, the hand on your abdomen should rise higher and faster than the one on your chest. Exhale.
Again, take a deep breath through your nose, trying to make it as deep as you can. Count up as you inhale and see how long it takes to fill up all the way.
Slowly exhale through the mouth or nose, gently contracting your abdominals to fully exhale.
Set a timer (1, 3, or 5 minutes) and practice this technique one to two times a day. Start with whatever is reasonable and add sessions as you desire.
Alternate Breathing Techniques
Mindful breathing – for anxiety, stress, difficulty sleeping, high blood pressure
Find a comfortable position in a quiet place
Focus on your breath by feeling and listening to each breath in and out
Thoughts may come and go naturally, so do not worry, just allow yourself to recognize this and return your focus to the sensations of breathing
Box/square breathing – for stress relief or boosting concentration
Sit up in a comfortable chair, resting palms up on your lap or knees
Breathe, following the directions below
Inhale – for a count of 4
Hold at the top – for a count of 4
Exhale – for a count of 4
Hold at the bottom – for a count of 4
You can adjust the duration to what is right for you
4-7-8 breathing – for sleep or calming
Get in a comfortable position, allowing the muscles to relax
Inhale – for a count of 4
Hold – for a count of 7
Exhale – for a count of 8
Some ways we can work on breathing include meditation and breathwork. Breathwork is the practice of breathing techniques. Meditation is a practice of training your mind – focusing or cleansing it. There are many different techniques for meditation which use a combination of mental and physical focuses. You can choose specific meditations for specific goals, such as to relax, reduce stress and anxiety, improve your health, improve attention, combat addiction, increase mindfulness, process emotions, and more.
Below are some of our favorite apps for breathwork and meditation:
Insight Timer – Meditation App (Insight Network Inc)
Guided meditations, ambient music, meditation timers, and online community courses, including all different meditation types and popular topics for personal growth and goals.
Try looking up Yoga Nidra meditations for help with sleeping or naps.
Balance: Meditation & Sleep (Elevate, Inc.)
Personalized guided meditation coaching and 10-day plans of guided meditations (as long or short as you choose) for all levels of meditators and goals, like focus, relaxation, productivity, communication, pain, happiness, and sleep.
Meditation Studio (InteraXon)
Guided meditations for various topics, including happiness, performance, stress, sleep, anxiety, relationships, grief, and many more.
Breathwrk: Breathing Exercises (Breathwork Inc.)
Large library of breathing exercises and classes with visual and vibration guided breathing techniques for various goals, including energy boost, calming, deep sleep, and more.
iBreathe – Relax and Breathe (Jade Lizard Software LLC)
Visual-guided breathing techniques including “box” and “4-7-8” for calming and stress reduction.
Wim Hof Method (Innerfire B.V.)
Breathing exercises, physical exercises, and challenges (like cold showers) for helping improve how you deal with both physical and mental stresses.