10 Mindful Breathing Techniques and Exercises (With Explanation)
Jul 15, 2021
Breathing is a fundamental physiological process for our life. We breathe thousands of times each day, fueling our cells with oxygen and expelling waste in the form of carbon dioxide.
But despite its importance, this process is fully automated. We breathe without realizing it, and thank goodness because we could not be aware of this process 24 hours a day.
However, by becoming aware of how we breathe for a few moments we can greatly improve our emotional health and, to achieve this, here are a few mindful breathing techniques and exercises.
- Related article: "12 meditation exercises (practical guide and benefits)"
10 recommended mindful breathing exercises and techniques
Every day we breathe an average of 20,000 times. Breathing is an automatic physiological process that begins as soon as we are born and does not stop until the last breath of our lives. It is fundamental to our existence, which is why we never stop breathing. This process nourishes the cells of the body with oxygen and makes us expel the remains in the form of carbon dioxide.
We breathe in and out constantly, a physiological process that despite being fundamental to our life and we do not stop for a single moment in doing it, in most cases we are not aware of it. Or have you counted how many times you have breathed since you started reading this article? Surely not, since it is a process that is maintained automatically. You don't need to think to do it.
Breathing well, consciously, not only allows us to continue living while maintaining our physiological functions. In addition to this, to do the breathing well, to take a conscious effort to improve it, we will not only recharge the cells of our body, but we will also ensure that there is a recharge at all levels of our being, both physical and mental. And for our fortune, unlike the heartbeat, we can modify our breathing with ease, we just have to get to it.
Despite being an automatic process, we can modify it, change the way we breathe for a moment and enjoy benefits for our health.. You can even improve your mood by breathing consciously and correctly for a few minutes a day. Breathing well can be magical and for this reason we are going to see about 10 conscious breathing techniques and exercises.
1. Deep breathing
This is one of the simplest breathing techniques, ideal to apply anytime, anywhere. Its function is to calm us down when we are stressed, although we can use it without having to be upset. The point is that it serves to induce a calm and relaxed state of mind.
It consists of taking air through the nose for about 4 seconds. We keep it in our lungs while we count to 4 mentally and very calmly. After that time, we proceed to release the air calmly for another 4 seconds. We repeat as many times as necessary, although we recommend about 5 or 6.
2. Full breath
In this exercise abdominal breathing is applied, which is deep.
First we expel all the air from the lungs, making them very empty. Then we proceed to breathe in gently and deeply, in order to fill the abdomen as much as possible, followed by the lungs and chest. We hold the air for about 4 seconds and expel it slowly, noticing how the chest empties first and then the abdomen.
3. Wim Hof breathing technique
This is a technique that has achieved some fame in blogs and pages specialized in conscious breathing. It is attributed to the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof or "Iceman", known worldwide for his ability to tolerate freezing temperatures.. In this technique breathing is combined with meditation.
The first thing we have to do is simply lie down. In a horizontal position we will take a series of 30 or 40 deep breaths, retaining the air as long as we can before releasing it. We breathe in to the maximum, filling the lungs as much as we can and as much as we notice. We hold for about 12 seconds and then we eject as slowly as possible.
This technique is not considered suitable for pregnant women, people with hypertension or epilepsy due to its complexity and risks. It implies a certain risk of fading when holding the air for so long, which is why it is recommended to do it safely, sitting or lying down.
- You may be interested in: "Jacobson's Progressive Relaxation: use, phases and effects"
4. Oxygenating all cells
This is another technique proposed by Wim Hof. According to its proponents, the practice of this mindful breathing exercise serves to cleanse the body of accumulated carbon dioxide and oxygenate the entire nervous system. However, it brings with it the disadvantage that a case of hyperventilation can occur due to the fact that a lot of oxygen can be introduced, more than the body is used to.
We will sit up straight and in the most comfortable way we can, preferably on an empty stomach or after getting up in the morning. We will inhale the air through the nose and expel it through the mouth in short, but intense bursts, as if we were blowing up a balloon or wanting to bring down a house of cards with a strong puff.
In this first phase we will do these steps about 30 times with our eyes closed. It is very important to be careful, since it may be the case that due to hyperventilation we feel a slight dizziness.
Then we move on to the next phase. It consists of, first, inhaling and filling the lungs as much as we can, but without forcing. Then we will let the air out and hold on for as long as we can without feeling uncomfortable. Later, we will introduce as much air as possible again and, feeling the expansion of our chest, we will hold our breath for about 10 seconds.
With all this we have completed an entire cycle, which we can repeat three or four more times starting again with the 30-time batch in which we imagine that we inflate a balloon and ending the phase in which we retain the air for about 10 seconds. After finishing the exercise, we will breathe normally, calmly and silently.
5. Maximum relaxation breathing
We will breathe through the nose and expel the air through the mouth. At the end of the exhalation, we will pause, waiting patiently for the body to begin with the next inhalation.
Each breath through the nose will be slow and calm. When we reach the maximum inhalation point, we will slowly release the air through the open mouth and then, still without closing our mouth and with the jaw relaxed, we will pause. We will consciously wait until we notice that the body asks us to breathe again.
After two or three breaths we will take the necessary time between one breath and another to feel how relaxation conquers our entire body. Then, we will breathe thinking about a specific area of our body that we consider to be still with a lot of tension, breathing at the same pace as throughout the exercise and as many times as necessary until you notice how we achieve relaxation.
6. Breathing for better sleep
This mindful breathing exercise It will help us control stress and, consequently, we will sleep better. We place the tip of the tongue on the palate, just behind the upper incisors. We will inhale through the nose for about 4 seconds, we will hold our breath for between 6 and 8 seconds.
Once these first two parts have passed, we exhale through the mouth pursing our lips and making noise, blowing, noticing how we release all our internal tension, for about 8 seconds. We will repeat the entire exercise about four more times.
7. Breathing to center the mind and eliminate tension
This exercise it is considered ideal to start practicing mindful breathing for the first time. Its objective is to get our attention to focus only on the breath, moving away full of our focus any tension or concern that may be hanging over our mind.
We begin by breathing gently, as calmly as possible. We will take long and shallow breaths through the nose inwards and outwards. In the meantime, we will imagine that we have an ash tray right in front of our faceAshes so light that at the slightest air that passes they could fly. That is why we are going to breathe as carefully and gently as possible.
With this exercise we will get the mind to calm down, silencing any negative and worrying thoughts that are lurking around us. We will feel more peace if we keep our eyes closed. We will continue taking several more slow and long breaths, trying not to produce the slightest agitation.
8. Conscious breathing with children
This is a mindful breathing exercise that we can do with children, as well as being very Recommended for those people who tend to strain their voice or who tend to have pain in the throat and aphonia.
We begin by inhaling and, meanwhile, we throw our head slightly back. When we expel the air we will bring the head forward, we will open our mouth as much as possible and we will stick our tongue down. Expiration will be done by making noise, as if it were the breath of a lion that we are imitating, but without sounding the vocal cords. It is about making an exaggerated exhalation, but not raising your voice.
9. Yogic Conscious Breathing
This exercise is the yogic version of the previous breath. Exactly the same is done, only that we will sit on the calves or in a chair and we will place our hands on each knee, with the fingers apart. We will breathe in and, when we breathe out, we will open our mouth to the maximum, sticking out our tongue as in the previous case, in addition to opening our eyes wide looking up at the sky and stretching our fingers towards the ground.
10. Balancing the mind
Another great breathing exercise to clear your mind, perfect to do it before having to face a very cognitively demanding task such as a university exam or selectivity.
We will cover one of the nostrils (nostrils) with our thumb and breathe slowly through the other side, counting to 8. We will retain the air for about 4 seconds and, when we have done it, we will cover the other nostril and exhale up to 8 seconds through the hole that was previously covered.
We can practice this exercise for a few minutes, constantly changing the nostril after each exhalation.. As we simply have to cover our noses, it can be done at any time and place, without the need for strange postures. By proxy it can be done even while taking the exam already, calming down while we read the questions.