Definition of Breathing Exercises

breathing exercisesBreathing exercises are methods to improve lung capacity. Exercises are especially helpful for people who have chronic or progressive lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (copd)bronchiectasis, and pulmonary fibrosis.

The pulmonologist or respiratory therapist may prescribe specific breathing exercises to accommodate an individual’s unique needs and health status.

General exercises often recommended include

  • belly breathing, which uses the abdominal muscles to help completely fill and empty the lungs
  • pursed lip breathing, which releases air through lips formed as though to whistle and maintains positive pressure in the airways with exhalation (especially helpful for people who have COPD and other obstructive diseases)
  • measured breathing, in which the person breathes in, holds the breath, and breathes out for an equal count at each stage

Yoga Breathing Exercises

Yoga breathing is also beneficial for pulmonary health, with yoga exercises to practice in combination with yoga positions as well as simply as breathing exercises. In yoga, the breath is prana, the energy of life, and breathing exercises are pranayama. Common pranayama include

  • bellows breathing, in which inhalation is steady and full, with exhalation forceful and rapid
  • alternate nostril breathing, in which inhalation is steady and full through one nostril with the fingers holding the other nostril closed, and exhalation through the other nostril, again with the fingers holding the nonbreathing nostril closed
  • holding the breath, in which inhalation is steady and full, the lungs hold the breath for as long as is comfortable, and exhalation is steady and slow

For people who have pulmonary health conditions, breathing exercises are more challenging than they sound. It is important to begin slowly and progress steadily. The doctor should approve any planned exercise effort, including breathing exercises. Breathing exercises, including yoga’s pranayama, are also highly effective for relaxation and stress reduction.


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