What are the different types of breathwork?

Danielle Capozza
April 12, 2024
7 minutes

We’ve all received the advice, just breathe, when we are stressed out. But science tells us that there’s something to this. Controlled breathing slows down rapid breathing that develops when the body senses stress. It fools the body into thinking it’s not stressed, so other systems follow suit. Several types of breathwork will help you get the desired results. This article will review the various options so you can find the one that’s right for you.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

As the name suggests, diaphragmatic breathing comes from the diaphragm. It is also called belly breathing or deep breathing. It is often used by patients with gastrointestinal issues as it helps them manage stress. During diaphragmatic breathing, the stomach, rather than the chest, moves with each breath. Each inhale should produce an expansion while each exhale causes a contraction. Focus on your breathing while practicing the exercise to quiet the mind.

Pursed Lip Breathing

The exercise involves breathing in through your nose with your mouth closed. Purse your lips as if you are going to whistle while inhaling. Then exhale while keeping your lips in a pursed position. Pursed lip breathing helps you slow your breathing, so you inhale and exhale more air. It is the easiest way to control shortness of breath. It reduces your breathing pace, so each breath is more effective in getting oxygen into your lungs.

Pursed lip breathing may be uncomfortable at first, but it will gradually become more natural for you the more you practice it.

Box Breathing

Box breathing is so-called because it involves 4 steps: breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and holding the exhale. Each step lasts 4 seconds. Note: Although 4 seconds is most common, some people experiment and find great value with 3, 5 and even 6 seconds on each step. But, we recommend you start with 4.

This technique has been practiced around the world in various cultures. However, this technique was made popular in the United States by Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman in his book On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace. It was then adopted by the US Navy Seals as part of their combat readiness training. Box Breathing is recommended for people in high-stress jobs who often find themselves in fight or flight mode, like police officers and soldiers. However, it can benefit anyone looking to reduce anxiety and boost concentration.

4-7-8 Breathing

4-7-8 breathing is based on an ancient yoga technique called pranayama which helps people get better control over their breathing. It promotes a deep state of relaxation which is conducive to sleep. It allows oxygen to flow into your organs and tissues.

The technique involves sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. Once in a relaxed position:

  1. Let your lips part and make a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth.
  2. Close your lips and inhale through your nose while silently counting to four.
  3. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  4. Make another whooshing sound as you exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

As the name suggests, alternate nostril breathing requires you to breathe through one nostril and then the other. It is beneficial because it helps people breathe in slowly and concentrate on their breathing. It can reduce stress and may also be good for the heart, lungs, and brain.

Here’s how to perform alternate nostril breathing:

  1. Sit on the ground with the spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Place the right index and middle fingers between the eyebrows with fingers pointing down to stimulate the ‘third eye’. If you are unable to use your fingers, another object may do.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Place the tip of your right ring and little finger on the left nostril.
  5. Place the tip of your thumb on the right nostril.
  6. Close the right nostril with your thumb and gently breathe out of the left nostril.
  7. Gently breathe in through the left nostril.
  8. Use your right ring and little finger to close the left nostril.
  9. Gently breathe in and then out of the right nostril.
  10. Repeat.

Other Types of Breathwork

Here are some other types of breathwork you may explore as you become more familiar with the medium.

  • Shamanic Breathwork: Used at Shamanic ceremonies, Shamanic breathwork encourages you to connect with your inner shaman.
  • Vivation: Vivation is a type of physically pleasurable breathwork exercise designed to help you let go of negative emotions.
  • Transformational Breathwork: Transformational breathwork works on a physical, mental, and spiritual level to help you find purpose and peace of mind.
  • Holotropic Breathwork: Holotropic breathwork combines accelerated breathing and evocative music to promote empowerment and self-exploration.
  • Clarity Breathwork: Clarity breathwork encourages you to use the power of your breath to unlock your potential.
  • Rebirthing Breathwork: Rebirthing breathwork uses deep connected breathing to induce relaxation and expand the state of consciousness.

Hanu Health Encourages Breathwork

Hanu Health is a mental and emotional wellness app. We help customers identify stressors and find the best methods to deal with them. Breathwork is almost always a component of our coping strategies. Our mobile app will help you improve your mental well-being.