Don’t Forget to Breathe! Mindful Breathing Techniques

Our lungs are constantly working to keep us alive! We breathe about 12 to 20 times a minute, totaling 17,000 times a day and 6 million breaths a year. Although breathing is vital for our function, we often don’t pay any attention to it. We usually breathe shallowly and quickly instead of taking large, lung-filling breaths.

Shallow breathing causes less air to get into the lungs, neglecting to fill the lower lungs, and less oxygen to our tissues. This can make us feel anxious, short of breath and put us at increased risk for infection of the lower lung. The first step in better breathing is paying more attention to your breathing or respiratory rate. Partaking in mindful breathing can decrease feelings of anxiety, increase relaxation and maintain healthier lungs.

How does it work?

Deep breathing sends a signal to the brain that tells it to relax. Then, the brain activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is our “rest and digest” response. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous systems tells our body that there is no danger and we do not need to be on high alert. The body then responds by increasing our resting and relaxation processes.

Mindful breathing can:

  • Slower heartbeat
  • Lower or stabilize blood pressure
  • Increase decision making
  • Increase airway diameter

Mindful Breathing Techniques:

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing © Andy Nowack |

Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to start paying more attention to your breathing! This technique can be done in any position, but it’s easier to begin in sitting or lying. Start by putting on hand on your belly and one on your chest. Take a big breath in with your nose and try to fill up your belly with air. You want to feel the hand on your bellying moving up as you breath in and down as you let the air out of your nose or mouth. You should feel slight movement from the hand on your chest, but majority should be coming from your belly.

The movement of your belly shows that you’re taking a deep breath instead of shallowly breathing in only the upper lungs. Try breathing in as much as you can and let the air out as slow as possible.

Butterfly Breathing

Butterfly breathing can be used to practice deep breathing when taking a break after a zoom meeting, working on the computer or just to get a good stretch. This technique is done in sitting with your hands behind your head. You start by taking big breath in through your nose. As your breath in looking up at the ceiling, try to pull your elbow apart and arching your back. As you slowly let the air out, look down toward your chest, bring your elbows together and round your back. Moving your body along with your breathe accentuates the natural movement during breathing and helps establish a breathing rhythm.

Box Breathing

Box breathing focuses on counting breaths to distract the mind and promote relaxation. This technique is powerful because it can be done anywhere and anytime. Try this technique before a big presentation, if you have trouble falling asleep or if you find your mind racing. You breathe in for 4 seconds and feel the air filling your lungs. Then you hold the breath for 4 seconds without inhaling or exhaling. After 4 seconds, you slowly let the breath go for 4 seconds. To complete the box, wait 4 seconds with your lungs empty before beginning your 4 second inhale. Keep repeating this technique until you feel re-centered. If 4 seconds is too hard, you can start with 2 or 3 seconds and work your way to 4.

Contact Us!

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness or breathing techniques, give us a call today! New Jersey has direct access which means you can come see us without seeing your doctor! We can see you quicker than you could get in to see the doctor, while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule your evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!