Breath Exercises: The Key To Relaxation And Well-Being

In our fast-paced world, many are searching for ways to reduce stress and find their inner balance. Breath exercises, also known as “Breathwork or Breathing exercises,” can be the key. They are not only a simple, but also an effective method for promoting relaxation and well-being. Immerse yourself in the art of mindful breathing and discover how you can positively influence your life through proper breathing.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in Mental Health
8 min read · Aug 30, 2023

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What Are Breath Exercises?

Breath exercises, also known as Breathwork, are techniques aimed at controlling and enhancing breathing. They are an integral part of many physical and mental practices, including yoga and meditation. Breathing consciously helps to relax and can serve as a natural remedy for stress. [1]

“Breath, mind, emotions – they are all interconnected.”

What Is The Purpose Of Breath Exercises?

Breathing is so natural that we often forget how essential it is. It's not only a vital function, but can also enhance overall well-being and reduce stress. Moreover, specific breathing techniques can support the treatment of lung disorders.

Enhanced Well-Being

Through mindful breathing and targeted breathing techniques, you can center yourself and enhance your physical as well as mental well-being. Our breath deeply influences your body and entire nervous system. Breathwork offers a simple and accessible way to relax, alleviate stress, and establish a deeper connection with yourself. To achieve this, it's necessary to become aware of your breathing and optimize it. This aids in reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, allowing you to find greater balance within yourself. [2]

For Stress Management

Breath exercises are an effective method for stress management. Through conscious and deep breathing, the entire organism is calmed, enabling better recovery. During periods of stress, we tend to breathe rapidly and shallowly.

However, with targeted breathing techniques, you can achieve a calmer and deeper breath that relaxes your body and positively influences your physical and mental state. By consciously controlling your breath, you can handle stressful situations with more composure and remain more present in the moment.

Thus, breath exercises can help you reduce stress, anxiety, nervousness, and inner restlessness, improve your sleep patterns, and enhance your performance and energy levels.

For The Treatment Of Lung Disorders

In addition to enhancing well-being and relaxation, breath exercises also serve the purpose of training the lungs and respiratory passages. It's no coincidence that breath exercises are an integral part of respiratory therapy. They help strengthen the respiratory muscles, promote lung mobility, and increase lung capacity. This can make breathing easier for individuals with respiratory conditions.

Athletes or individuals with tensions or poor posture can also improve their respiratory function and performance and prevent lung disorders through breath exercises. [3]

Breath Exercises For All Situations

Breath exercises are a valuable tool that is always at our disposal in our busy world, helping us find moments of calm and relaxation. By learning various techniques, you'll be able to reduce stress, enhance well-being, and recenter yourself in challenging everyday situations. [1]

The Science Behind Breathing

Breathing is not just inhaling and exhaling air. Proper breathing is a complex process that supplies our body with oxygen. To effectively utilize the oxygen from inhaled air, it must be transported deep into the lungs. This is achieved through a combination of abdominal and chest breathing.

Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is not merely a waste product; it also has many positive effects on the body, particularly in terms of stress and anxiety control. Breath exercises can help increase CO₂ tolerance, thereby improving overall health and well-being. CO₂ is responsible for dilating blood vessels, indirectly leading to increased oxygen supply to cells. This allows us to avoid getting out of breath quickly and improves endurance. [4] [5] [6]

Breath Exercises For Daily Life

Simple techniques like mindful breathing can be practiced anytime, anywhere to calm the mind and relax the body.

Conscious Breathing

Our breath is closely connected to our emotional, physical, and mental states. When relaxed, we breathe deeply and slowly. However, discomfort or stress leads to rapid and shallow breathing. Conscious breathing can reduce anxiety, improve sleep, lower stress levels, and even prevent stress. Deeper breathing enhances oxygen levels in the body, calming and regenerating the central nervous system. [7]

In daily life, you can regularly become aware of your breath by counting your breaths:

  1. Start by inhaling and exhaling into your chest for four seconds.
  2. Gradually increase the duration.
  3. Pay attention to the tension and relaxation of your muscles.

Such simple yet effective breath exercises help you find relaxation and reduce stress in your daily life.

Breath Exercises For Stress

Various factors cause stress and tension in people. One of these is anxiety, leading to shallow breathing. Proper breathing technique can soothe the autonomic nervous system and promote stress reduction. This system regulates your blood pressure and respiratory rate automatically, without conscious involvement. The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. While the sympathetic system has activity-boosting functions, the parasympathetic system dominates during periods of rest. [8]

Diaphragmatic Breathing For Stress

Diaphragmatic breathing is a deep technique where the abdomen expands during inhalation. It not only reduces stress but also aids digestion and improves sleep. Here's how diaphragmatic breathing works:

  1. Lie on your back or sit upright.
  2. Place your hands on your abdomen, with your fingertips lightly touching.
  3. Breathe calmly and effortlessly in and out.
  4. Let the air first flow into your abdomen and then into your chest.
  5. While inhaling, your abdomen should gently rise, and your fingers should move apart.
  6. Exhale and relax your chest, then your abdomen.
  7. Your abdomen should move inward during exhalation. [1]

The breathing bubble in the video can help you focus on your breath:

Breath Exercises For Relaxation

To release tension and calm the mind, breathing techniques that emphasize deep inhalation and exhalation are beneficial. [1]

Yoga's Alternate Nostril Breathing

Yoga's alternate nostril breathing relaxes you and can enhance concentration by balancing the two brain hemispheres.

  1. For this breathing exercise, use your right hand to spread your thumb, index, and middle fingers.
  2. Close the left nostril with your index and middle fingers, and inhale through the right nostril.
  3. Then close the right nostril with your thumb and exhale through the left nostril.
  4. Next, inhale through the left nostril, close both nostrils, and exhale through the right.

Here's a brief and simple guide to yoga's alternate nostril breathing:

Breath Exercises For Shortness of Breath

Specific techniques can aid in alleviating discomfort during panic attacks, breathlessness, and asthma attacks, making breathing easier.

The Lip Brake For Shortness Of Breath

An effective technique is the “lip brake.” This breathing technique facilitates exhalation in asthma by countering airway constriction. The air flow is slowed down, maintaining stability and openness in the airways during exhalation.

Here's how the lip brake works:

  1. Inhale: Take a deep breath through your nose.
  2. Exhale: Exhale gently through pursed lips, as if you were whistling. This ensures airways remain open for longer, making breathing easier.

It's crucial to practice this technique regularly to be able to use it safely in emergencies. [9]

Breath Exercises For Falling Asleep

Slow and deep breathing before bedtime can help calm the mind and improve sleep.

Falling Asleep Faster With The 4-7-8 Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a great way to fall asleep faster. Derived from the yogic technique Pranayama, it helps regulate your breathing. This technique involves inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.


  1. Lie down comfortably or sit in a relaxed position.
  2. Keep your mouth closed and inhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
  3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  5. Repeat this breathing cycle several times.

This technique distributes oxygen more effectively in your body, helping you relax. Try to let go as you perform this exercise and keep your body, especially your jaw and shoulders, relaxed. [10]

This video guides you through the 4-7-8 breathing technique:

Taking time to focus on your breath and regularly practicing these techniques is essential for achieving the best results.

Are There Risks Associated with Breath Exercises?

Correctly performed, breath exercises hold no risks. They aim to find relaxation and calm through conscious inhalation and exhalation.

Proper, mindful breathing supplies the brain and body cells with oxygen, inducing a state of relaxation. However, it's important to follow certain rules when practicing exercises to minimize potential risks. Incorrectly performed breath exercises could lead to issues like dizziness or hyperventilation, where excessive carbon dioxide is exhaled.

Hence, it's crucial to listen to your body and immediately stop if you experience pain or discomfort. It's also advisable to learn breath exercises under the guidance of a professional, and seek advice if uncertain. Individuals with health issues should consult a physician before starting a breathing practice. [11] [12]

What to Consider in Breath Exercises?

In breath exercises, conscious and correct breathing is vital. Typically, proper technique involves inhaling through the nose, as it's quieter and longer, and the nose filters dirt and viruses.

There are distinct techniques for diaphragmatic and chest breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing, the abdomen should gently rise during inhalation and noticeably contract during exhalation. It's recommended to practice in a relaxed posture, whether standing, lying down, or sitting.

When performing breath exercises, ensure not to breathe too quickly or deeply, especially initially. Remember to take sufficient breaks to avoid overexertion, dizziness, or discomfort. If the latter occurs, stop the exercise immediately and consult a doctor if in doubt. [13] [14]

Better Breathing with Yoga

Yoga helps connect your body, mind, and breath. Many yoga poses and techniques include special breath exercises that calm the mind and strengthen the body.

Yoga isn't solely a physical practice but also an art of breathing. Pranayama, the breath exercises in yoga, teach us to breathe more consciously and efficiently. Through these techniques, oxygen intake is increased, improving overall body function and contributing to relaxation. This can be especially beneficial in stress management.

Pranayama literally means “control of life energy.” It's not just about physical breathing, but also controlling energy within the body. Regular yoga improves your breathing and rejuvenates your mind. [15] [16]


Breath exercises are a key to relaxation and well-being. Mindful breathing allows us to reduce stress, anxiety, and inner restlessness, as breath is closely tied to our thoughts and emotions. Targeted breathing techniques can alleviate these negative emotions.

Proper breathing helps you relax in stressful situations, enhance concentration, and rejuvenate. Furthermore, breath exercises can aid in winding down in the evening and promoting restful sleep.

Overall, breath exercises are a simple yet effective method to boost overall well-being and maintain balance in our busy lives. With regular practice, these techniques can contribute to leading a more harmonious and fulfilling life.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!