Deep breathing can help restore diaphragm function and increase lung capacity. The goal is to build up the ability to breathe deeply during any activity, not just while at rest. Deep breathing exercises can also lessen feelings of anxiety and stress, which are common for someone who experienced severe symptoms or was admitted to a hospital. Sleep quality may also improve with these breathing exercises. Anyone can benefit from deep breathing techniques, but they play an especially important role in the COVID-19 recovery process. The exercises can be started at home during self-isolation and easily incorporated into your daily routine.

1) Diaphragmatic Breathing (Belly Breathing): 

Can help you use your diaphragm properly. Do belly breathing exercises when you’re feeling relaxed and rested. Practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times per day. When you begin you may feel tired, but over time the technique should become easier and should feel more natural. 

Deep breathing restores lung function by using the diaphragm. Breathing through the nose strengthens the diaphragm and encourages the nervous system to relax and restore itself. When recovering from a respiratory illness like COVID-19, it’s important not to rush recovery

This deep breathing exercise is broken up into phases to take into account individual ability. Only increase repetitions or move to the next phase when you can complete the exercise without feeling too out of breath.

 PHASE 1:  Deep Breathing While On Your Back,

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees so that the bottom of your feet are resting on the bed.
  •  Place your hands on top of your stomach or wrap them around the sides of your stomach. 
  • Close your lips and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  •  Breathe in through the nose and pull air down into your stomach where your hands are.
  •  Try to spread your fingers apart with your breath.
  •  Slowly exhale your breath through the nose.
  •  Repeat deep breaths for one minute

PHASE 2:  Deep Breathing While on Your Stomach,

  • Lie on your stomach and rest your head on your hands to allow room to breathe.
  • Close your lips and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. 
  • Breathe in through your nose and pull air down into your stomach. Try to focus on your stomach pushing into the mattress as you breathe.
  •  Slowly exhale your breath through your nose. 
  • Repeat deep breaths for one minute

PHASE 3: Deep Breathing While Sitting,  

  • Place your hands around the sides of your stomach.
  •  Close lips and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  •  Breathe in through your nose and pull air down into your stomach where your hands are. 
  • Try to spread your fingers apart with your breath. 
  • Slowly exhale your breath through your nose.

 PHASE 4: Deep Breathing While Standing

  • Stand upright, and place your hands around the sides of your stomach.
  •  Close your lips and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. 
  • Breathe in through your nose and pull air down into your stomach where your hands are. 
  • Try to spread your fingers apart with your breath. 
  • Slowly exhale your breath through your nose.
  •  Repeat deep breaths for one minute Yawn to a Smile,

This exercise incorporates motion with deep breathing, which helps increase coordination and build strength in the arms and shoulders. Moreover, it also opens up the muscles in your chest to give the diaphragm space to expand. Reach arms overhead and create a big stretching yawn. Bring your arms down and finish by smiling for three seconds. Repeat for one minute.

Humming: while exhaling helps increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps with neural plasticity (building and repair of the nervous system) and it dilates blood vessels, enabling more oxygen to be delivered throughout the body. Humming is also calming and soothing, it reduces stress and it can help the patient remain in restoration mode.              

 2) Pursed lip breathing:

This simple breathing technique makes you slow down your pace of breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. You can practice pursed-lip breathing at any time. It may be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing. Practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin to correctly learn the breathing pattern.

To do it:

  •  Relax your neck and shoulders.
  •  Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts.
  •  Pucker or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle. 
  • Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

3) Breath focus techniques:

 The deep breathing technique uses imagery or focuses on words and phrases

You can choose a focus word that makes you smile, feel relaxed, or that is simply neutral to think about. Examples include peace, let go, or relax, but it can be any word that suits you to focus on and repeat through your practice. As you build up your breath focus practice you can start with a 10-minute session. Gradually increase the duration until your sessions are at least 20 minutes.

To do it:  Sit or lie down in a comfortable place.

  •  Bring your awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you’re breathing. 
  • Alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times. 
  • Notice any differences between normal breathing and deep breathing. Notice how your abdomen expands with deep inhalations. 
  • Note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing. Practice your deep breathing for a few minutes.
  •  Place one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed, and notice how it rises with each inhales and falls with each exhales. 
  • Let out a loud sigh with each exhale. Begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation. You can imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body

Mentally say, “Inhaling peace and calm. Imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety. You can say to yourself, “Exhaling tension and anxiety.

4. Lion’s breathing: 

It’s also known in yoga as Lion’s Pose or Simhasana in Sanskrit

Breath is an energizing yoga breathing practice that is said to relieve tension in your chest and face.

To do this: Come into a comfortable seated position.

  •  You can sit back on your heels or cross your legs.
  • Press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide. Inhale deeply through your nose and open your eyes wide."
  •  At the same time", open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin.
  •  Contract the muscles at the front of your throat as you exhale out through your mouth by making a long “ha” sound. 
  • You can turn your gaze to look at the space between your eyebrows or the tip of your nose. 

Do this breath 2 to 3 times. Here is a guided example of a lion’s breath and a couple of pose variations on it.

5. Alternate nostril breathing: 

Known as Nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, is a breathing practice for relaxation

Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and to lower heart rate. "Nadi shodhana is best practiced on an empty stomach." Avoid the practice if you’re feeling sick or congested". Keep your breath smooth and even throughout the practice.

 To do this: Choose a comfortable seated position.

  •  Lift your right hand toward your nose, pressing your first and middle fingers down toward your palm and leaving your other fingers extended. 
  • After an exhale, use your right thumb to gently close your right nostril.
  •  Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril with your right pinky and ring fingers. Release your thumb and exhale out through your right nostril.
  •  Inhale through your right nostril and then close this nostril. Release your fingers to open your left nostril and exhale through this side. 

This is one cycle. Continue this breathing pattern for up to 5 minutes. Finish your session with an exhale on the left side.

6. Equal breathing equals breathing: is known as sama vritti in Sanskrit. 

This breathing technique focuses on making your inhales and exhales the same length. Making your breath smooth and steady can help bring about balance and equanimity. You should find a breath length that is not too easy and not too difficult. You also want it to be too fast so that you’re able to maintain it throughout the practice. Usually, this is between 3 and 5 counts. Once you get used to equal breathing while seated you can do it during your yoga practice or other daily activities. 

To do it 

  • Choose a comfortable seated position. 
  • Breathe in and out through your nose. 
  • Count during each inhale and exhale to make sure they are even in duration.
  •  Alternatively, choose a word or short phrase to repeat during each inhale and exhale. 
  • You can add a slight pause or breath retention after each inhales and exhales if you feel comfortable. (Normal breathing involves a natural pause.)
  • Continue practicing this breath for at least 5 minutes.

7. Resonant or coherent breathing

Resonant breathing, also known as Coherent breathing, is when you breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute. You can achieve this rate by inhaling and exhaling for a count of 5. Breathing at this rate maximizes your heart rate variability (HRV), reduces stress, and, according to one 2017 study, can reduce symptoms of depression when combined with Iyengar yoga.

To do this

  • Inhale for a count of 5.
  • Exhale for a count of 5.Continue this breathing pattern for at least a few minutes.

8. Sitali breathes:

This yoga breathing practice helps you lower your body temperature and relax your mind. Slightly extend your breath in length but don’t force it. Since you inhale through your mouth during Sitali breath, you may want to choose a place to practice that’s free of any allergens.

To do this

  • Choose a comfortable seated position.
  • Stick out your tongue and curl your tongue to bring the outer edges together.
  • If your tongue doesn’t do this, you can pursue your lips. 
  • Inhale through your mouth.
  • Exhale out through your nose.
  • Continue breathing like this for up to 5 minutes.

The takeaway you can try most of these breath exercises right away. Take the time to experiment with different types of breathing techniques. Dedicate a certain amount of time at least a few times per week. You can do these exercises throughout the day. Check-in with your doctor if you have any medical concerns or take any medications. If you want to learn more about breathing practices you can consult a respiratory therapist. Discontinue the practice if you experience any feelings of discomfort or agitation.