What are Breathing Techniques?
Breathing techniques or breathing exercises, are simple ways to help you control or change the way that you breathe.
For most of us breathing happens automatically, without having to think about it. However, learning how to control or adapt the breaths we take can help when we are feeling breathless. These breathing techniques can help everyone but can be particularly useful for people with a lung condition, which makes it harder for lungs to get rid of stale air and refill with fresh, oxygen-filled air.
Breathing techniques can help if you feel that your breathing is getting out of control for any reason. For example, if you feel anxious or if you need to complete an activity that leaves you out of breath, such as walking up stairs.
How do Breathing Techniques work?
When we are out of breath, our brain will sometimes try and make us breathe faster, to get more air into our lungs. This can make the muscles that help us breathe get tired resulting in us taking shorter, shallow breaths. This means that we only empty and refill the top part of our lungs, which makes breathing harder and makes us even more out of breath.
Learning how to control your breathing through simple techniques helps to empty as much stale air from your lungs as possible. You can then refill your lungs fully once more, to get the maximum amount of oxygen into your body.
Which Breathing Techniques should I learn?
The ASTHMA + LUNG UK website includes a lot of useful information about different techniques, with step-by-step instructions. Click here to find out more. Speak to your GP, practice nurse or specialist respiratory team to find out which types of breathing techniques might be best for you. If you do not have a GP, you can find local services using our service finder web page.
The five main techniques are listed below:
- “Breathing control” (helps you to properly fill your lungs with oxygen)- click here for a video on diaphragmatic breathing to manage breathlessness.
- “Breathe a rectangle” (helps you to fully empty your lungs of stale air)- there is a video on the breathing rectangle here.
- “Pursed-lips breathing” (helps to control shortness of breath and slows breathing)- this video shows how to use pursed lip breathing.
- “Blow-as-you-go” (helpful for when an activity needs extra effort)
- “Paced breathing” (breathing in time with your walking pace when active)
You can find out more about breathing exercises from the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care here.
Where can I find out more?
To find out more about breathing techniques, speak to your GP, practice nurse or specialist respiratory team. The sites listed below also have lots of useful information: