Many people suffer from breathing issues, whether due to a temporary illness or long-term health issues. For some, taking a deep, cleansing breath is almost impossible. This lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood, making one feel sluggish and tired all the time. Because of that, many people are looking for simple breathing techniques they can do from the comfort of their own home and on their own time that can help increase the amount of oxygen in the lungs and the blood. Issues that cause breathing problems include being overweight, smoking, COPD, asthma, problems prolonged by COVID, allergies, and more.
One might wonder why breathing exercises are important physical therapy at all. Well, we breathe. A lot. All-day long. We need plenty of oxygen to live, be active, and have a fulfilling life. When our oxygen counts are low, we can feel it, and our bodies start to react accordingly by shutting down and telling us we need to rest. By implementing breathing exercises throughout the day, we can boost those oxygen levels, increase our energy, and start feeling better all the way around, not to mention improving our mental state. Even if you don't have breathing issues, doing a couple of these breathing techniques can help you feel healthier. Keep reading for Alex Klurfeld's best physical therapy breathing exercises.
Taking a deep breath involves using the diaphragm. Singers need to take deep breaths to reach the required notes, which comes from using the diaphragm and breathing from as far down in the body as possible. Breathing from the diaphragm is sometimes called belly breathing. You can do belly breathing whether you are sitting up or lying down. Once you are in a comfortable position, place your hands on top of your stomach. Take a deep, cleansing breath through your nose. Our nasal passages are a purifier of sorts to clean and warm up the air we take in. Our mouth does not have the same purifying qualities. Take as deep a breath as possible, making sure to fill up your lungs to capacity. If you are lying down, you should feel your back touch the floor or mattress. If you are sitting up, your back should touch the back of the chair. Once you have filled up your body with fresh oxygen, purse your lips and let your breath out slowly, blowing through your mouth. Do several repetitions (5-10 breaths) of this exercise at one sitting, but do it several times throughout the day (at least 3-4 times).
Even if you don't have health issues that cause breathing problems, there are days we all feel a little anxious and overwhelmed, causing us to breathe faster than average and also increase our heart rate. That can leave you with a panicky feeling. You can help calm yourself by puckering up. This isn't to say you need to be kissing someone; it means you need to practice some breathing relaxation techniques. Take a deep breath, again through the nostrils. Make sure you can feel it at the bottom of your lungs. Then slowly, for about twice as long as the breath you inhaled, let it out through pursed lips as if you were pushing it out a hole that's too small. Repeat this physical therapy exercise several times until you feel your heart rate decreasing and have an overall calming feeling. The great thing about this breathing exercise is that you can do it wherever you are, whenever you need to, no matter what position you are in, whether standing, sitting, or lying down. This is also a great exercise to improve lung function and make sure you release all the carbon dioxide you have in your lungs.
Humming to increase lung function may sound silly. However, it is an excellent physical therapy breathing technique that increases immunity in the body, helps clear the sinuses, and focuses on breathing with the diaphragm. For this exercise, you want to sit where your knees are above your waist. You can do this by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and legs pulled up toward your chest, or you can sit in a chair with a footstool in front of you that is tall enough to make sure your knees are above your waistline. Make sure your body is relaxed. Your lower back should be a little bit rounded. Arrange your arms so that one is behind you with your thumb pointing toward the floor and the other is in front of you with your thumb pointing upward. Inhale through your nose and reach toward the back with the arm behind you. Exhale through your mouth, reaching forward with your arm in front. As you exhale, hum an "a" or an "o" sound. The combination of breathing and humming helps to boost immunity and clear the mucous membranes. Repeat this exercise three to four times, and then repeat three to four more times, switching the position of the arms. This helps to open up your lungs and allows for deeper breathing and cleansing.
If you don't feel that you can take deep breaths because of breathing issues or congestion in the lungs, you can take baby breaths. This is called stacked breathing. Again, this is one of those physical therapy exercises Alex Klurfeld suggests you do any time throughout the day to help improve lung function. Take a fairly deep breath through the nose, but don't completely fill the lungs. Hold that breath for just a moment and then take two to three more quick intakes of air without releasing the first breath. Hold your breath for about three seconds, and then slowly let it out through the mouth. This breathing exercise keeps the oxygen in the lungs for a more extended period and helps in distributing it into the bloodstream. Repeat this exercise three to four times, several times throughout the day, especially those days when you can feel a little bit of tightening in your chest.
Studies have shown that lying on the stomach opens up the lungs and the airways to improve breathing. This exercise can be done on the floor or a bed. Wherever you lie down, place your hands one on top of the other and rest your forehead on your hands while looking face down. This will give you room to inhale and exhale. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose. You want to fill your lungs with enough air so that your stomach touches the floor or the mattress. Try pulling as much oxygen into your stomach as you can. Hold the air in for a few seconds before slowly releasing it through the nose. Repeat the breathing in and out for one minute.
Laughing and singing may not technically be physical therapy breathing techniques, but they can do fantastic work in your lung function. When laughing or singing, you are forced to take deeper breaths and hold them. Singers especially have to practice taking those deep breaths that reach all the way down to the diaphragm. It's said that laughter is good for the soul; it's good for the lungs too. So turn up the radio or playlist and do a little singing and dancing. You'll feel much better physically and about everything in life in general.
Most of these breathing techniques can be done by anyone anywhere. These exercises are helpful for those who have problems with lung function, but they can also be beneficial to those who don't. Deeply breathing to get rid of noxious gases in our bodies will boost our immunity, revive us with energy, and help us live the best lives we can. Doing these exercises every day will help improve lung function and build up the diaphragm, which is a muscle we tend to forget. Happy breathing!