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Breathing Exercises

Breathe Right!
Get More Oxygen!
Bring out the best in your Body and Mind!

Why is Breathing right so important?

Breathing 'right' essentially refers to abdominal,diaphragmatic, or belly breathing instead of using our chest. Breathing has various benefits including as follows:

The most obvious benefit of breathing properly is that it ensures that our body gets the maximum amount of oxygen to the full capacity of our Cardiovascular and Cardiorespiratory system.

And that essentialy helps us in performing all sorts of physical, mental, cognitive, and emotionaol tasks, because Oxygen is the one element that we rely on to perform all sorts of tasks in our lives.

Some important Brain facts:
→ Our Brain uses 25% our total Oxygen intake
→ The Brain needs constant supply
→ The Brain can survive only 6 minutes after Oxygen supply is stopped

More oxygen means improved cognitive efficiency:
The brain is reliant on Oxygen for any type of functioning. Hence, when we provide our Brain with more oxygen we essentially improve it's ability to perform various cognitive and mental tasks such as speaking, decision making, computing numbers, and pretty much anything you can think of.

Much like the brain, our muscles cannot function or survive without Oxygen.

Our body enacts a process called Cellular Respiration that uses Oxygen in order to convert Glucose obtained from food into ATP energy, and that energy is what we use to perform physical tasks.

This is why, without food we become energy deprived, and feel week, and cannot perform physical tasks well. And, for that same reason, without oxygen our body cannot produce the energy needed and thus our muscles feel weak and unable to perform physical tasks properly.

Unlike the brain, muscles can store oxygen for energy production to a certain degree, but we still need to continiously feed our muscles with more Oxygen.

The bottom line:

More Oxygen = More Energy = Improved Physical Performance

When we experience acute emotions such as stress, and anxiety for various reasons in our daily lives, our Brain recognizes them as a potential threat to our safety, and sends an alarm to alert the body preparing it for immidiate action, also popularly known as the 'flight or fight response'.

Some common response to stress:
→ Increased heart rate
→ perspiration,
→ increased blood flow
→ increased blood sugar

While stress responses has their unquestionable benefits and advantages, they also come with a number of prices, such as:

→ the relaxed state in compromised.
→ Reduced cognition
→ Reduced decision making ability

Slow diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing helps us in strssful situations by:

→ Supplying us with more oxygen that improves our cognitive functioning that is compromised as a result of the stress response
→ Helping us feel relaxed again

Benefits of deep breathing during stressful situations:

→ improved decision making
→ avoid making regrettable decisions
→ improved mental/ cognitive functioning
→ improved emotional control

Diaphragmatic breathing may not be a cure for specific illnesses, but it has been associated with various health benefits, such as follows:

Improved Blood Circulation

Controlling Blood Pressure

Increased Energy Levels

Improved heart rates at rest

Better cardiovascular and respiratory health

Improved Digestion

Better immunity

Reduced muscle tension and pain

Better Posture

Diaphragmatic breathing has been found to have a positive effect on various mental illnesses such as anxiety, stress, and depressive symptoms. Abdominal breathing is incorporated into many treatments and interventions that directly treats such mental illness symptoms.


Principles of Proper Breathing


Breath with your Abdomen!

One of the most important element of proper breathing is using your abdomen when you breathe. A common mistake is to breathe using our chests - this must be avoided. Abomenal breathing is the most efficient way to breathe as it expands our lungs to its full capacity and facilitates the most amount of oxygen intake during Inspiration (inhaling).


Inhale with your Nose!

Nose breathing has several benefits including infilteration of dust and allergens, boosting oxygen intake, warming and humidification of the air as it enters through the nostrils and passes on to the respirtatory system. So, basically you get cleaner, warmer, and more humidified air when you breathe with your nose. That is not to say, that you should never use your mouth to breathe. When you are doing intense physical exercise, such as, sprinting or dunking a basketball, it's okay to breathe with both your nose and mouth, as it would allow you to inhale more oxygen in quick succession.


Exhale with your Mouth!

Exhaling through mouth ensures more efficient breathing and the most amount of oxygen intake. Mouth exhalation is a lot faster compared to nose exhalation, hence, it speeds up the completion of the respiratory cycle, allowing you to begin the process of your next breathe much quicker. The second benefit of mouth exhalation is that it gives you more control of your breaths and it energizes the core.


Exhale at half the speed as you are inhaling!

Timed breathing makes your breathing cycles rhythmic. Especially when you are using breathing as part of any type of meditation or relaxation exercises, it is useful to have more control and rhythm to your breathing. Therefore, you should try to exhale at a slower speed than you would  inhale, ideally at half the speed.


Always use your diaphragm!

Although diaphragm isn't a fully voluntary muscle, it is a critical organ for the respiratory system. Abdomenal breathing ensures the most efficient use of the diaphragm and ensures maximum oxygen intake.


The Respiratory System

The Respiratory System includes several important organs in our body including Nasal Cavity, Pharynx, Larynx, Trachea, Lungs, Broncus, Bronchiole, and the Diaphragm. These organs work together and coordinate in order to perform the task of respiration, more commonly known as Breathing.

Nasal Cavity is the first region of the respiratory system that the inhaled air passes through after having entered through the nostrils.

Nasal Cavity is divided into two sectionsleft and right, and contains critical elements such as mucous membranes and nasal hair on its surface. Mucous membranes produce the valuable mucus that keeps the nose from becoming dry, as well as, preventing harmful foreign particles from entering the nose by collecting them at the nasal cavity.

Nasal cavity has two key respiratory functions:

1) Moisturize the air inhaled using mucus
2) Infiltrate the dirt and dust particles from the inhaled air, and as a result, supplying the next respiratory organ with more purified air 

The Pharynx, also known as the throat is the second passage that the air travels thr    ough after being inhaled and infiltrated by the nasal cavity. The pharynx serves as an important organ both to the respiratory and the digestive systems.

The pharynx is divided into three parts:

1) Nasal pharynx: the first passage area of the pharynx that the air passes through after being infilterated by the nasal cavity.

2) Oral Pharynx: also part of the digestive system, begins at the back of the mouth cavity and continues down the throat to a flap of tissue called epiglottis that keeps air from entering the digestive channel and food from entering the respiratory channels.

3) Laryngopharynx: also part of the digestive system, connects the throat to the esophagus of the digestive system to pass food into the stomach, as well as, connecting the pharynx to the following respiratory passage - Larynx.


From Pharynx, the inhaled and infilterated air passes through to the next area called Larynx. As part of the respiratory system, Larynx facilitates breathing, and protects the respiratory system from foreign objects by coughing and other reflexive actions. The larynx eventually passes the inhaled air into the next respiratory organ called Trachea also known as the wind pipe.


Trachea, or the wind pipe, functions as the main passageway that transports the inhaled, infiltirated air into the lungs. In the process, it also warms, and moisterizes the air, and traps any external derbis that manages to bypass the protection of the nasal cavity.

Lungs Animation

Lungs serve as a critical organ to our respiratory system. A normal human body consists of two lungs that are shaped like baloons, made from spongy tissues that allows it to contract and expand. Stretchy nature of this organ allows the respiratory system to create a disparity of air pressure which eventually facilitates the body to pull in air from the outside.

The air obtained through the Lungs is then passed on to our circulatory system through Bronchus and Bronchiole.

Bronchus Animation

Bronchus (singular: Bronchi) is the main gateway of air into the lungs. All humans have two Bronchus, one connected to each lung. As the air enters the body through mouth or nose, and travels across the various passages, it eventually enters the two main Bronchus, and branches out again into smaller passageways called bronchioles.

Bronchiole Animation

After entering Bronchus, the air is passed on to smaller branches called Bronchioles, and the smallest passageways of Bronchioles (also known as Alveoli) eventually does the task of adding oxygen into the blood while removing carbon dioxide, which then travels back across the same passage in the Respiratory system and released into the environment as we exhale.

Diaphragm Animation

Diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle located right below the lungs. Although the diaphragm does not transport or carry any air, it still plays a critical role in the process of respiration by continuous rhytmic contraction and relaxation of the muscle that pulls air into the lungs during inspiration and forces air out of the body during expiration.

During inhaling, the Diaphragm contracts to create a large vaccum inside chest cavity, and this pulls air into the lungs. On the other hand, when we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, and returns to it original shape, thus reducing the vaccum size of the chest cavity and this causes air to force out of the lungs and the body.

Why should we use Diaphragm to breathe?

Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing ensures maximum oxygen intake as opposed to when we breathe with our chest.

Diaprhagmatic Breathing vs Chest Breathing - Adlul Kamal Sport Psychology

Diaphragmatic breathing vs. Chest Breathing

When we breate with our chests, it does not expand to its full capacity, hence, limits our oxygen intake. On the other hand, diaphrapgmatic breathing expands our chest cavaty to its full capacity that ensures the most amount of inflow of oxygen.

How to improve Breathing Quality?

The answer is simple - Practice, Practice, and Practice! Practice on your own taking the above factors into account.

Pay attention to the details mentioned above, such as, use your diaphragm, avoid chest breathing, inhale with nose, exhale with your mouth.

Practice your breathing tactics on a regular weekly or daily basis to see positive changes.

If you have been breathing your chest your entire life, it may seem difficult to switching to using your stomach. But don't worry, and don't give up, if you keep practicing long enough, eventually you will begin to see the changes.


Breathing Exercises

Here are some exercises to help you improve your breathing techniques and building good breathign habits.
Breathing Exercise Standing

Breathing Exercse I

Sit down or Stand in a relaxed position. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach as shown in the picture. Now start breathing slowly using your diaphragm. Make sure that only the hand on your stomach is moving while the hand on your chest remains relatively static.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise - Laid on back

Breathing Exercse II

Lie down on your back in a relaxed position. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach as shown in the picture. Start breathing slowly using your diaphragm. Make sure that only the hand on your stomach is moving while the hand on your chest remains static.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise - Laid on back with object

Breathing Exercse III

Lie down on a relaxed position on your back. Place any object on your chest as shown in the picture. You may also place another object on your chest. Start breathing slowly using your diaphragm. Make sure that only the object on your stomach is moving while your chest (or the object placed on your chest) remains static.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise - Laid on front

Breathing Exercse IV

Lie down on a relaxed position. Place any object on your chest as shown in the picture. You may also place another object on your chest. Start breathing slowly using your diaphragm. Make sure that only the object on your stomach is moving while your chest (or the object placed on your chest) remains static.

Medical Advisory
If you experience any pain or discomfort during any of the exercises, please stop the exercise an consult a doctor. If you have any medical conditions, please consult your doctor before attempting any of these exercises.

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“The scope of one’s personality is defined by the magnitude of that problem which is capable of driving a person out of his wits.”
― Sigmund Freud

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Adlul Kamal, M.Sc. - Sport and Exercise Psychology