Deep Breathing Exercises & Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath can be a symptom of strenuous physical exertion or several medical conditions. HelpGuide.org notes that anxiety and panic attacks frequently cause breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. You may also have a condition such as heart disease, lung disease, allergies or a blockage in your airways, according to MedlinePlus. In cases of non-medical emergency, deep breathing exercises can often help alleviate breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. However, if you experience other symptoms, it's a good idea to notify your doctor.

A woman is practicing deep breathing.
Credit: AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that can be used to calm symptoms of anxiety, panic and stress. You focus on your breath, trying to be conscious of your breath rate and the origin of each breath. During times of stress, anxiety and panic, your breathing becomes short and rapid, originating from the chest area. According to the National Panic and Anxiety Disorder News, one of the most frightening symptoms of a panic attack is the feeling that you cannot get enough air into your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing can often help to alleviate this feeling. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, placing one hand on your abdomen. Concentrate on taking deep breaths that come from your diaphragm. Slow down your breathing rate, allowing for a slight pause between breaths. Breathe in this manner for several minutes. This technique can be practiced anywhere and at any time you feel short of breath.

Pranayama

Pranayama is a breathing technique used in the practice of yoga. According to Yoga Journal, pranayama uses the breath to release and channel the body's stored energy. This technique is useful during times of stress and chaos and can help to alleviate shortness of breath. There are many different approaches to this technique. However, the simplest way to practice is to lie down in a comfortable position, preferably on a mat or towel. The three essential components of pranayama are to exhale, pulling your stomach muscles in and trying to expel all of the air out of your lungs. Wait a moment, then inhale, trying to draw as much air as you can into your lungs. This should be a slow, gradual process, not something you force.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate nostril breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana in the yogic tradition, is a powerful breathing technique that can induce feelings of calm and relaxation. You can use this simple technique whenever you feel anxious or short of breath. According to Beverly H. Timmons and Ronald Ley in their book "Behavioral and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders," alternate nostril breathing can help to stimulate the nasal cavity and help to slow the pulse. It is practiced by closing your right nostril with your thumb, inhaling through the left nostril, then closing your left nostril with your index finger and releasing your thumb, exhaling through the right nostril. You can practice this for a few minutes before alternating to the opposite side, starting the practice from your left nostril.

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