The goal of most breathing techniques is to breathe more deeply, but what does this mean? It means using your diaphragm muscles to draw in and push out more air, thereby making things easier on your lungs and respiratory system. When someone says that your breath is all lungs, it can sound confusing. What they mean is you’re only using your resting lung capacity to breathe. In this way, most breathing techniques are muscle training for the diaphragm and other chest and abdominal muscles that can help create space in your body for the lungs to expand into. More to this point, every good inhale starts with the exhale of the previous breath. You can’t fill your lungs with oxygen-rich air if there’s lingering air pressure from the leftovers of the last breath.
The simplest breathing technique is no more complicated than paying attention and consciously controlling your breath. Indeed, this is one of the interesting characteristics about breathing. You can do it with intention or automatically. Simply by focusing on taking a full inhale, holding the breath, and taking a full exhale, you will improve your breathing even after you’ve let go of the conscious control.
Yoga puts a huge emphasis on breathing. If you have even minimal strength and flexibility—and there are all kinds of modifications for newbies and people with limited mobility—you can start a yoga habit and breathing techniques will invariably be part of this practice. In fact, you’ll likely be introduced to a handful of different pranayama breathing techniques. You may not think yoga is your thing, but it can be a lot more interesting than simply focusing on your breath. The strength and flexibility training also provides additional health benefits. A meditation practice in which you focus on a breathing exercise is another great complimentary activity.
There are also nifty little breathing exercises that can work for specific situation and health challenges. Trying to calm down a child who’s breathless with emotion? Tell them to try to blow out candles as a way of helping them catch their breath and distract them from the initial stressor. Looking for a single thought aid for adults? We prefer to think of “lengthening our exhale” as a great way to stay focused on our breath. Having trouble with allergies? You can improve your nasal breathing and passageways by breathing through a single nostril. Alternate which nostril you use with each breath.