It’s no secret that when you become short of breath, you become anxious. And when you become anxious, you become more short of breath because you may hold your breath.
Practicing coordinated breathing not only improves your breathing, but it can reduce anxiety. It can also help when you are exercising – because you know that you should be, right?
Here are the steps to practice coordinated breathing:
- Inhale through the nose. If you’re exercising, inhale through the nose prior to the exercise
- Purse the lips
- Exhale through the lips. If you’re exercising, inhale through the lips during the most challenging part of the exercise
This type of breathing technique is great for everyone, not just people suffering from COPD. It can be used for people suffering from anxiety in general, or for people trying to power through a difficult run!
Air can become trapped in the lungs if you are taking quick breaths; when this happens, this can lead to increased shortness of breath.
Although the “deep breath” practice isn’t necessary all of the time, it can be useful when you feel air trapped in the lungs and when you feel the need to take a big breath of fresh air.
How to practice deep breathing:
- Sitting or standing, tuck the elbows back slightly
- Take a deep breath
- Count to five, holding the breath in
- Exhale slowly, until you feel that you have released the trapped air
This exercise can be performed in conjunction with other types of breathing exercises and can be repeated three to four times per day.
Huff Cough Technique
Well, the Huff Cough Technique is designed to not only conserve energy but also bring in a little bit extra oxygen – thus allowing you to breathe a little bit more effectively.
To perform the Huff Cough Technique:
- Sit upright in a comfortable position
- Make an effort to inhale just a little bit deeper that you would for a normal inhalation
- Using your abdominal muscles, on the exhale, blow out the air in three even breaths while you make the sounds “ha, ha, ha”
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is a type of yogic breathing, or pranayama, which has been done for centuries. Its Sanskrit name is Nadi Shodhana. If you’ve gone to a yoga class, you may have done it before – and you may have found it to be strange.
The practice of pranayama has been studied in COPD patients.
According to one study, various types of breathing techniques have been found to be effective and doing a combination of yogic pranayama may “improve the subjective experience of health, disease severity, and functional status for COPD patients, without much improvement in FEV1 actually occurring and with airflow limitation not fully reversible but usually progressive.”
What does this actually mean?
It means that during a three-month research study, participants reported that their health was better, even though their spirometry tests didn’t actually improve.
So – alternate nostril breathing could make you feel better. Let’s give it a try!
- Sit upright in comfortable position
- Using the right hand, place the tip of the little finger on the left nostril and the pad of the thumb on the right nostril
- On the exhalation, use the thumb to close the right nostril, breathing out through the left nostril
- Inhale through the left nostril, then close the left nostril with the little finger
- Open the right nostril on the exhalation
- Inhale through the right nostril, then close the nostril with the thumb
- Open the left nostril, and breathe through that nostril
- You have completed one round of alternate nostril breathing! Do 10 rounds, increasing if desired
You may find you naturally lean onto a table, counter, or the back of a chair when you’re feeling out of breath — that’s a natural reaction. Bending forward at the waist mobilizes the diaphragm, which helps your lungs function more efficiently.
This can be a helpful way to catch your breath, but it ultimately won’t help you strengthen your respiratory muscles as much as other breathing exercises. Use this posture when you need to, but don’t let it replace pursed-lip or belly breathing, which actually retrain weakened muscles.
Reset Your Breathing When You Need a Break
It’s important to be able to choose the right breathing technique for the right situation. For example, if you’re feeling extremely out of breath, don’t push ahead to try to overcome the problem. Instead, sit down, relax your shoulders, and sit comfortably to regain your composure.
You could also shock your skin to improve breathing. Splashing cold water over your face or using a fan to blow cold air over your body can help in two ways: the sudden sensation can stimulate processes that reduce the feeling of breathlessness, and it can help distract you from the discomfort for a few minutes while you regroup.
In general, pursed-lip breathing is the most accessible and effective technique when you need to open up your airways immediately, so get comfortable with the process as soon as possible.
Work with a pulmonary rehab group or therapist if you want to learn and progress quickly and safely.