8 Powerful Deep Breathing Exercises To Go Deeper


Deep breathing exercises are crucial accompaniments to yogic practice. 

Pranayama, the ancient practice of controlling your breath, involves lots of deep breathing, and is intrinsic to the goal of cultivating union between your body and mind (yoga!).

Deep breathing exercises also are a fantastic way to kick off your meditation practice, as it can help you center yourself into your body before you go deeper.

Deep breathing itself even outside of the world of yoga can help you harness relaxation, improve bodily functions, and overall wellbeing and health. 

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of deep breathing and share 8 exercises to practice:

  • Deep Breathing Tips
  • Deep Breathing Benefits
  • 8 Powerful Deep Breathing Exercises
a woman sitting cross legged on a yoga mat with a hand on her stomach

6 Deep Breathing Tips

When performing deep breathing exercises, it’s important you maintain a couple of good practices so that you can be consistent and reap the benefits. 

Here we list a few tips to get you started:

#1: Find A Quiet Space

When deep breathing, whether it’s an accompaniment to some asana practice or a precursor to meditation, choosing a calm and quiet environment is essential to minimize distractions.

#2: Make Sure You Feel Comfortable

When performing deep breathing exercises, much like meditation, it’s important to sit yourself in a comfortable position. 

This may look like you are seated with a straight spine and with your shoulders relaxed, potentially up against some sort of prop. 

For me, I regularly get pins and needles when I am seated to breathe or meditate, so I perch my sitting bones up on a cushion, or sometimes use a chair.

You can also of course practice deep breathing exercises while lying on the floor, or during your yoga asana practice.

three people meditating cross legged by a river

#3: Pay Attention To Your Breath

No matter which of the deep breathing exercises we recommend you decide to do, it is always recommended to direct your attention to your breath. 

The breath is the gateway to the subconscious mind, and a potential key for mastery over your mind and body. 

Pay close attention specifically to the sensation of the breath, as it enters and leaves your body.

#4: Maintain Consistency With Your Practice

Alright, this isn’t just a tip for deep breathing exercises, but really a tip for all practices and sadhana in life.

It’s of paramount importance that to maximize the results of deep breathing exercises, you must remain consistent. 

Build out the habit from ground zero: practice for at least a couple minutes each day, and work it out from there.

#5: Watch Your Body For Tension

Observation is key to any practice that involves internal examination. You should use your time in deep breathing exercises to scan your body and enquire as to what is happening. 

Is there tension? Is there pleasure? Can I engage with it, or does it change under observation alone?

#6: Combine Deep Breathing Exercises With Yoga

Incorporating deep breathing into specific yoga poses can significantly contribute to fostering an integrated practice conducive to the mindful application of asanas.

a woman sitting cross legged on the sofa practicing nadi shodhana

6 Deep Breathing Benefits

#1: Reduces Anxiety And Stress

When you engage in deep breathing, you activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This response counteracts the “fight or flight” stress response, helping to reduce stress and anxiety levels. 

Deep breathing encourages relaxation and a sense of calm that you can carry into your everyday life.

#2: Improves Your Lungs Ability To Oxygenate

Deep breathing ensures that your lungs are fully utilized, allowing for a greater intake of oxygen. 

Oxygen is essential for energy production in cells and supports overall vitality. Well-oxygenated cells function optimally and contribute to overall health.

#3: Strengthens Your Diaphragm

Deep breathing exercises effectively condition and fortify the respiratory muscles, encompassing the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. 

This conditioning can result in heightened lung capacity and enhanced efficiency in oxygen exchange, ultimately facilitating smoother and more effortless breathing.

#4: Lowers Your Blood Pressure

Engaging in deep, slow breaths can relax blood vessels and diminish resistance to the flow of blood. 

Consequently, this leads to a lowering of blood pressure, which plays a significant role in promoting improved cardiovascular health.

two women practicing nadi shodhana

#5: Improves Circulatory And Lymphatic System Function

Deep breathing improves circulation and supports the optimal function of the lymphatic system, making it easier for the body to eliminate waste products and toxins. 

Consequently, this can play a vital role in promoting overall health and well-being.

#6: Aids Meditative States

Deep breathing forms the cornerstone of mindfulness and meditation techniques, aiding individuals in remaining in the present moment, nurturing inner tranquility, and enriching their meditation journeys.

8 Deep Breathing Exercises

There are many ways to do deep breathing exercises. There are both ancient and modern approaches, and we outline 8 exercises here:

#1: 4-7-8 Breathing

This deep breathing exercise is based on ancient yogic methods and promotes deep oxygenation. This technique introduces a regulation to the mind and body that brings about a calming focus.

How to practice:

  1. Begin by parting your lips and exhale fully through your mouth, creating a sighing sound. 
  2. Following the exhale, close your lips and inhale deeply through your nose while counting to four in your mind.
  3. Hold your breath for a duration of seven seconds. 
  4. Finish the exercise with another sighing exhale through your mouth, this time lasting for eight seconds.
a woman doing breathwork kneeling down with a hand on her belly and another on her chest

#2: Belly Breathing (Diaphragmatic Breathing)

Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes referred to as abdominal breathing, is a breathing method that centers around activating the diaphragm. 

This approach to breathing entails utilizing the diaphragm to take deep inhalations, enabling the lungs to expand with air, followed by a deliberate and complete exhalation.

How to practice:

  1. Place a hand over your heart center, and the other hand on your navel.
  2. Breathe in deeply through your nose into your belly, so you feel your body and stomach expand.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, and keep your hands as still as possible.

#3: Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing helps you regulate your breath and keep it slow by applying intention to your deep breathing.

How to practice:

  1. Relax your body, and keep your mouth closed as you inhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
  2. Purse your lips as if you were going to whisper or whistle, and exhale slowly and intentionally.
a man in a blue t shirt pursing his lips

#4: 360 Breathing

360 Breathing is a type of deep breathing exercise that is an extension of diaphragmatic breathing in which you pay attention to the full expanse of your body, rather than just the belly.

How to practice:

  1. Make use of the steps in diaphragmatic breathing above.
  2. During the breathing exercise, focus on a 360-degree expansion of your rib cage, and your back.

#5: Focus Breathing

This is a type of deep breathing exercise that makes use of visualizations or words that make you feel relaxed. 

You could tailor any of the other deep breathing exercises by incorporating a focus breathing aspect.

How to practice:

  1. Begin your choice of deep breathing practice
  2. Imagine your focus object or word as you inhale, supporting the inhale with the connotations of that focus. For example, using the words “clarity and stillness”, imagine that upon the inhale that you are cultivating those concepts.
  3. Imagine the inverse on your exhale, supporting the exhale with the connotations of that focus.
a man practicing alternate nostril breathing in a room with plants

#6: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing (known as nadi shodhana) is when you close off one nostril as you breathe through the other, circulating your breathing in regular patterns. 

How to practice:

  1. Place your right hand into a vishnu mudra by positioning your index and middle finger into your palm, leaving your ring, pinky, and thumb extended.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Inhale and exhale once to start.
  4. Close your right nostril with your thumb, and then inhale deeply via your left nostril.
  5. Close your left nostril with your ring and pinky finger, and then exhale via your right nostril.
  6. Inhale deeply via your right nostril, and then close your right nostril with your thumb.
  7. Exhale via your left nostril, and then inhale through your left nostril.
  8. Repeat this for up to 10 rounds.

#7: Bhramari Pranayama Breathing

Bhramari pranayama breathing can reduce your breathing and heart rate which fosters a sense of calm and relaxation. 

It is a classical yogic technique of deep breathing that works well in preparation for meditation.

How to practice:

  1. With your eyes closed, place your index fingers on your ears, and press on the cartilage in between your cheeks and your ears.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose.
  3. Exhale slowly through your nose and make a gentle high-pitched humming sound.
  4. Observe the sensations in your body and repeat the pattern.

#8: Box Breathing

Box breathing is a simple and effective deep breathing technique that is similar to the 4-7-8 breathing technique, as it is about regulating the timing of your breath.

How to practice:

  1. Exhale firstly to a count of four
  2. Once you have exhaled, keep your lungs still and empty for another count of four.
  3. Inhale to a count of four.
  4. Once you have inhaled, hold the air in your lungs to a count of four.
  5. Exhale, and repeat.

Further Information

If you’ve enjoyed reading about these deep breathing exercises, why not check out our other articles:

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Born and raised in London, Luke is a passionate writer with a focus on travel, yoga, philosophy, and meditation. As a certified yoga teacher having studied under a swami in Rishikesh, Luke now lives in India pretty much just practising yoga, meditating and writing articles! Luke's life arc has gone from somewhat turbulent to peaceful, and he considers yoga and meditation direct methods to sustain introspective insight to manifest peace and happiness, despite life's challenges. Luke's passion for meditation has led him to complete multiple meditation retreats, where he spent almost 40 days in silence in the last two years. He practices various meditation techniques such as Vipassana, Anapana, and Metta Bhavana, each adding to his knowledge and experience of the true self. Most recently he meditated in Jaipur, India, and before that lived for a short spell in a monastery with forest monks in Northern Thailand. To Luke, yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a way of life that helps him cultivate a stronger mind-body connection. As a young man with arthritis, Luke understands the importance of observing and controlling his body, and yoga has been a vital tool in his journey to better health and well-being. The practice of yoga has not only helped him manage his symptoms but has also given him a new perspective on life. Luke's love for yoga and meditation is not limited to a single tradition or practice. He's fascinated by the spiritual teachings of all types of religious philosophy, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity for their essence and wisdom. His passion for spirituality is what drives him to continue learning and growing, and share his knowledge with other people. Luke in his spare time is an avid chess player, cyclist and record collector. He also has experience with addiction, and so sponsors multiple people from different walks of life in their recovery programmes.

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