Three Simple Breathwork Techniques to Improve Overall Wellbeing

March 28, 2021, Publisher: Lee Mendeloff

Breathwork may contain the word work, but many breathwork techniques are surprisingly simple. We would like to introduce you to three easy and beneficial breathing practices you can start today.

Belly breathing

The first technique is called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. This practice is deeply calming and nourishing. In fact, studies have found this type of breathwork increases relaxation, decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body and improves sustained attention with practice.

Your diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle at the base of your lungs. By using this muscle more effectively you can increase the amount of oxygen you take into your body, which can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate as well as boosting your immune response.

We are all born belly breathers. Sadly, as we grow older, outside factors such as stress and the desire to have a flat tummy break this healthy, natural habit. The good news is you can easily get your body back into its natural rhythm by doing this practice regularly.

How to practice belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing gets its name from the place in the body where you’ll be directing your breath - the diaphragm. If it’s helpful, you can imagine inflating your belly gently like a balloon as you inhale and deflating it as you exhale.

Please always practice breathwork seated or lying down for your safety. Sit up straight with your back supported or lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees slightly bent to relieve pressure on your lower back. You can use a pillow under your head and knees for support, if that's more comfortable.

  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, directing the air to your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly rises. 
  • Gently tense your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through your nose. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

It’s recommended to practice this technique a couple times a day for 5-10 minutes. Creating a regular breathwork habit like this is good for your body and mind!

Box breathing 

Next up is a breathing technique called box breathing. This practice is excellent for calming the mind, regulating emotions, and reducing stress. Research suggests that practicing this type of breathing regularly can help you train your nervous system to respond to stress differently, which can have lasting positive effects on both body and mind.

How to practice box breathing

This technique gets its name from the shape of a box, which is even on each of its sides. If it helps, you can imagine building a box with your breath.

Remember, always practice breathwork seated or lying down for safety. Once you get into your preferred position try relaxing your muscles instead of engaging them. Focus on feeling an expansion in the stomach as you inhale, but don’t ever push. Listen to your body and if it feels painful or uncomfortable for any reason, please pull back the practice to make it less intense.

  • Exhale fully to prepare.
  • Inhale through the nose for a count of four, guiding the breath into the belly.
  • Hold your breath at the top of the inhale for a count of four.
  • Exhale for a count of four through the nose, feel your belly gently deflate.
  • Hold at the bottom of the breath for a count of four.

This above is classed as 1 round. It’s recommended to complete 4 rounds, 2-3 times daily for best results. The more consistently you practice breathwork, the more benefits you will receive!

4-7-8 breathing

The final breathing technique is 4-7-8 breath or “relaxing breath” as it is often called. This practice uses a breath hold and an extended exhale to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and calm.

This technique is so relaxing it can help those suffering from insomnia drift off to sleep. Integrative M.D., Dr. Weil has described 4-7-8 breathing as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”

How to practice 4-7-8 breathing

This technique gets its name from the duration each part of the technique takes to complete. The inhale lasts a count of four, the hold a count of seven and the exhale a count of eight. Extending the duration of the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation is what makes this practice so relaxing.

This time, although the inhalation is through the nose, the exhalation is through the mouth using pursed lips, as if you are drinking through a straw or blowing out a candle.  

As before, always practice breathwork seated or lying down in case you get lightheaded. Of course, you could practice this technique in bed to help you fall asleep.

  • Exhale fully to prepare.
  • Inhale through the nose for a count of four, guiding the breath into the belly.
  • Hold your breath at the top of the inhale for a count of seven.
  • Exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight.

This completes 1 round. It’s recommended to start with 4 rounds and then gradually work your way up to 8.

These 3 easy techniques are the perfect introduction to breathwork and great to have in your stress relief toolbox. We recommend trying one technique for a week and then changing it up to a different one until you have tried all three to see which works best for you. Of course, you can always choose to mix and match. The beauty of breathwork is it’s always in your control!

Please join the Breath Hub community for more tips, guidance and support as you journey further into what this empowering, holistic practice can offer you.