Breathing techniques: what are they important for and what exercises are there?

Atemtechniken: Wofür sind sie wichtig und welche Übungen gibt es?

Breathing is important in our life. We can survive a few days without food and water, but without breathing we die in minutes! And yet we don't pay attention to something that plays such a crucial role in our lives.

Many scientists from different disciplines, athletic trainers (1), physical therapists or alternative therapists in different fields insist that we can have significant health benefits with the different breathing techniques. The way we breathe is critical to our quality of life, as well as our physical and mental health.

In this article we have compiled information for you on how to improve breathing techniques. Among other things, we give you tips on how to breathe properly. Here we explain what to look out for when doing breathing exercises.

the essentials in brief

  • Breathing techniques help to get better air not only during sports, but also with respiratory diseases such as bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and with various types of pain.
  • Conscious breathing helps you to relax in everyday life, sleep better, cope with fears, panic attacks and stress. Many breathing exercises come from yoga. Meditating often begins with practice by focusing on your breathing.
  • Thanks to the various breathing techniques, blood circulation and cell metabolism can be improved. The organs are stimulated, the immune system is strengthened and your body absorbs more oxygen.

Background: What you should know about breathing techniques

We have compiled the most frequently asked questions about improved breathing techniques for you and answered them below.

How do the breathing techniques work?

The different breathing techniques work on a balanced basic attitude, since you can directly influence your emotional state through breathing. You get a better concentration, better blood supply to the whole body through the full utilization of the lung capacity.

Breathing techniques also help reduce the physical discomfort associated with pain. Conscious breathing calms the body and mind and promotes physical activity. Even severely handicapped patients can do breathing exercises anywhere and anytime without help.

What are the different types of breathing techniques?

There are many breathing techniques (2). The best known and practically simplest are the following:

breathing technique Task
diaphragm (belly breathing) Physical and mental relaxation
Pranayama or full yogic breathing Controlling emotions better, improves self-control of the mind and body
alternating breathing Works against allergies, hay fever and asthma and has a preventive effect against colds
Conscious Breathing Helps lower blood pressure, slows the heartbeat and relaxes muscles
Kapalbhati (fire breath) Blood pressure drops, the heart beats slower, more efficiency
coherent breathing This breathing technique can also act as an antidepressant.

Why is proper breathing so important?

In fact, breathing has a bigger impact on health than we realize. Of course we need air to survive. But did you also know that correct breathing can provide the body with approximately 90% of the oxygen it needs to regulate its acid-base balance?

Deep breathing eliminates up to 70% of toxins in the air. Proper breathing can even lower blood pressure (3) and activate the immune system.

About 4000 years ago the Asians and the East knew that correct breathing can heal.

In fact, it is a very important part of meditation and self-control techniques such as: tai chi, qigong, visualization systems, fantasizing and body therapy are becoming increasingly popular(4).

Controlling your breathing is one of the simplest breathing exercises, but also one of the most effective ways to overcome stressful situations, relax, and boost creativity.

Targeted breathing training helps to improve breathing in the long term. If you train regularly with the following arm technique, you will pay more attention to deep breathing in your daily life.

The 4-7-1-1 technique

This is a very simple breathing technique that we can all use.

  • Inhale through your mouth and count to 4
  • Exhale through your mouth and count to 7
  • This process is repeated eleven times

What types of breathing are there?

Breathing is vital and the most natural thing in the world. However, most people breathe incorrectly, mostly too shallow and fast.

There are several types of breathing:

  • Calm and intense: Depending on the intensity, breathing is divided into calm and deeply intense. When breathing calmly, the inhalation is active, during the exhalation the ribs passively return to their original position due to the elasticity of the chest. At the same time, the membrane returns. In contrast, during deep, intense breathing, the respiratory muscles actively change the diameter of the chest, both on exhalation and inhalation.
  • Nose and mouth breathing: Depending on the air intake, breathing is divided into nasal and oral.
  • Side breathing: inhale-exhale through the ribs. Here we inflate the sides with air rather than the belly following the same procedure. This breathing technique is used in swimming and freestyle swimming.
  • Chest breathing and abdominal breathing: Depending on the muscle groups used, breathing is divided into chest breathing and abdominal breathing. Chest breathing works the intercostal muscles and abdominal breathing works the abdominal muscles and diaphragm.

Here are the differences between abdominal and chest breathing:

chest breathing

When inhaling with the abdomen, the contraction of the diaphragm increases the volume of the chest cavity, which opens the lungs and allows a large amount of oxygen to be absorbed by the blood.

Abdominal breathing is mainly used in relaxing situations such as sitting or sleeping. On the contrary, chest breathing primarily ventilates the upper part of the lungs. If you breathe through your chest for a while, you will experience symptoms of difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Chest breathing is increasingly used in escape and panic situations.

abdominal breathing

Through constant practice, we can control abdominal, side and chest breathing separately, and then link them together one at a time, creating complete breathing and thus achieving the greatest air intake.

  • The entire lung volume is utilized
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps with digestion
  • Relaxes and relieves stress
  • absorption of the body with more oxygen
  • Relaxation of the vegetative nervous system(5)

What breathing techniques can I use to fall asleep?

In Germany, many people suffer from sleep disorders. One of the main reasons for this situation is stress, which causes insomnia and prevents you from getting a deep and restful sleep.


Correct and effective breathing is particularly important for wind musicians (flute, harmonica, trumpet, didgeridoo, etc.) and singers, so that they can use their breathing more effectively when playing and singing. (Image source: aswin-thekkoot/unsplash).

These simple breathing techniques can help you before bed:

The 4-7-8 technique

This is a very simple breathing technique that we can all use. according to dr Because (6) the 4-7-8 technique is effective because it allows the lungs to fill with air. Thus, the whole body receives more oxygen and complete relaxation takes place.

How to use the 4-7-8 technique:

  • Exhale through your mouth and let all the air out loudly (breath whistle).
  • Close your mouth and breathe in slowly through your nose, from the inside, counting to 4.
  • Hold your breath and count to 7.
  • Exhale through your mouth, expelling all of the air out loud (to hear the breath whistling) and count to 8.
  • This process is to be repeated four times.

Yoga breathing technique (Vishnu Mudra): alternate nasal breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe with only your left.
  • Breathe as much as possible, release the right nostril and close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Repeat this cycle by alternately holding the right and left nostrils.

Which breathing techniques are good for shortness of breath?

Many breathing techniques can help people with lung diseases get better air(7).

What breathing techniques can I use for copd and asthma?

Pursed lip breathing: Pursed lip breathing stabilizes the bronchi during exhalation.

  • Relax your shoulder
  • put your lips together in a relaxed manner
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose
  • and exhale the air slowly, between the lips, through the narrowed breathing hole
  • Always breathe out longer than we breathe in, we never hold our breath between breathing and breathing out

Diaphragm (belly breathing): This traditional breathing exercise is often used in yoga and activates the diaphragm.

  • Sit comfortably and relax your shoulders. Keep your mouth closed and breathe in quickly through your nose with short breaths (also breathe out quickly)
  • Try this for about 10 seconds
  • Take a 15 to 30 second break and breathe normally
  • Repeat several times

What breathing techniques are good for anxiety?

Anxiety, anxiety, and panic are usually associated with rapid, shallow breathing and heartbeat. On the other hand, it is impossible to breathe relaxed, calm and excited at the same time. With the right breathing technique, you can easily get rid of anxiety and exam anxiety.

Yoga Bhramari Pranayama Breathing Exercise: Is a very effective breathing technique not only in relieving anger, excitement, frustration or fear(9), but also in lowering the heart rate.

  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out
  • Cover your ears with your hands
  • Place your index fingers over your eyebrows and the other fingers over your eyes
  • Then press lightly on the sides of your nose and focus on your eyebrow area
  • Keep your mouth closed and breathe slowly through your nose, making the "ohm" sound
  • Repeat the process 5 times

The 4-6-8 method: If you are scared of exams, only deep breathing will help

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to 4 from the inside
  • Hold your breath and count to 6
  • Exhale through your mouth and count to 8
  • This process is to be repeated four times

Which breathing techniques are recommended for low stress and relaxation?

Until recently, the effect of breathing on the brain was at least a mystery. Research from Stanford University shows(10) that the relationship between breathing and relaxation provides a scientific basis for brain mechanisms.

woman screaming

Do you suffer from panicky nervousness or palpitations? You're not alone. With different breathing techniques you will calm down and manage the stress (Image source: noah-buscher/unsplash).

Abdominal breathing: Many people are no longer familiar with abdominal breathing and only breathe superficially in the chest. Through this exercise, the diaphragm was consciously introduced and the lungs were completely filled with oxygen.

  • Put a hand on your stomach
  • Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose
  • Let your breath out through your mouth or nose without using your abdominal muscles. The abdominal wall descends
  • Exhale longer than you inhale
  • Repeat the process 10 times

What breathing techniques can I use to increase lung capacity?

To increase your lung capacity, you can do regular breathing exercises that will increase your breathing capacity.

  • Sit up straight on a stool or chair
  • Place your hands on your stomach to feel the movement of your lungs
  • Now breathe slowly through your nose. The inhalation lasts about five seconds
  • Hold your breath for a moment and then exhale slowly through your mouth
  • You can repeat the exercise 8 times in a row

What is the Wim Hof ​​Method?

The Wim Hof ​​Method is a breathing technique inspired by the meditation practice of Tibetan monks. The history of this method can be traced back to 1995 when Hof's wife suffered from a serious mental illness that ended her life. Since then he had to face a different life.

This is the starting point of his goal: he began to show the world a world that can touch each of us and even control the body and mind.

This so-called tummo meditation exercise aims to use specific breathing techniques to increase body temperature and eliminate bad thoughts and feelings.

Wim Hof ​​combines traditional breathing techniques with gentle movement and cold training. The purpose of the Wim Hof ​​Method is summed up simply as being more convenient and productive. This is because you will reap many physical and mental benefits if you practice the Wim Hof ​​Method on a regular basis.

What breathing techniques can I use when exercising?

One of the biggest problems for athletes is the shortness of breath they feel after a period of time.

When you breathe deeply, you fill your lungs with more air, which means more oxygen to your muscles.

What breathing exercises do you recommend when running?

During the run it is important to : take small but deep breaths to strengthen the diaphragm.

The abdomen should be swollen when you breathe in and empty when you breathe out. But you need training for that. With Pilates you learn how to breathe correctly with your stomach.

Finally, you can practice rhythmic breathing. Start by breathing in every 2 steps (left and right) and exhaling every 2 steps (left and right).

What breathing exercises can I use while swimming?

Since you can breathe moderately underwater, it is strongly recommended that you practice rhythmic breathing while swimming, rather than jogging. Deep breathing is very important when swimming to ensure the best air exchange.

Freestyle swimming: a three-stage breathing rhythm is recommended. 3 arm movements are followed by a breath. Depending on your progress, you can even imagine a 4-step rhythm.

What breathing exercises can I recommend during strength training?

Breathing plays an important role in strength training.

  • Exhale during exertion and inhale after exertion.

Press breathing is not recommended.

For whom is press breathing suitable?

In performance strength training, press breathing is a must. In order for the strength athlete to improve his performance, he should use forced breathing.

Press Breathing: Here the pros and cons of are presented.

With the forced breathing, the chest muscles can become more stable. This type of breathing carries certain risks.therefore it can only be used in moderation and only by healthy people.

If you have high blood pressure and vascular disease, then you had better avoid press breathing.

What breathing techniques can I use during childbirth?

Using different breathing techniques can help during childbirth. This way, you can not only relieve a little pain, but also provide your child with better oxygen. Conscious breathing can also help before birth.

Practice all the techniques during pregnancy: chest breathing, stomach breathing, deep and shallow breathing, and try to alternate between deep breathing and shallow breathing.


With different breathing techniques you will learn that we have a source of joy and wisdom within us. The breath is your best friend. In any case, he will accompany you for a lifetime and will always be with you.

Realize the importance of breathing!!! Do not breathe shallowly and quickly, but rather deeply and calmly. This strengthens your body and mind and lays an important foundation for a healthy life.


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  2. Sendera, Martina, and Alice Sendera. Chronic pain: conventional medicine, complementary medicine and psychotherapeutic aspects, Springer Vienna, 2015. (Page 208)
  3. Manikonda, J., Störk, S., Tögel, S. et al. Contemplative meditation reduces ambulatory blood pressure and stress-induced hypertension: a randomized pilot trial. J Hum Hypertens 22, 138-140 (2008). Issue DateFebruary 2008
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  9. Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity Judson A Brewer, Patrick D Worhunsky, Jeremy R Gray, Yi-Yuan Tang, Jochen Weber, Hedy Kober Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2011, 108 (50) 20254-20259; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1112029108
  10. Yackle K, Schwarz LA, Kam K, Sorokin JM, Huguenard JR, Feldman JL, Luo L, Krasnow MA. Breathing control center neurons that promote arousal in mice. Science. 2017 Mar 31;355(6332):1411-1415. doi: 10.1126/science.aai7984. Epub 2017 Mar 30. PMID: 28360327; PMCID: PMC5505554.
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