Don't waste your breath: 4 techniques for better breathing

Does your body need a breath of fresh air? Believe it or not, there is a proper way to breathe. Learning how to perfect your breathing is a valuable tool for conquering daily activities such as exercising and for sleeping well at night. Proper breathing techniques are also essential in controlling and managing stress levels, anxiety, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

Aspire to become better at the way you respire with the following techniques:

Stretch. As with any workout, stretching is a necessity. Take a deep breath through your nose and bringing your arms up over your head. Pulling your arms up and away from your torso helps to open your lungs and expand the tiny muscles lining your ribs. Hold this breath for 3 to 5 seconds before exhaling through your mouth.

Belly breathing. Are you a shallow breather? Here’s how you can tell: Inhale and observe whether your chest or tummy inflates. If you see your chest puff up, you aren’t getting enough of the good stuff.

Focus by closing your eyes and placing one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nostrils and allow the air to fill your stomach. This will expand your ribs and push the collarbone up. Hold this breath for 3 to 5 seconds. Exhale fully by contracting your stomach muscles at the end of your breath. Continue this exercise for two minutes. Repeat five times throughout the day.

Alternating nostril breathing. Shallow breathing can cause dizziness, a common side effect of anxiety. Learning how to master your breathing can curb these unpleasant symptoms.

Begin in a seated position. Place your right thumb over your right nostril, inhaling deeply through your left nostril. Hold your breath for one count, then release your thumb and place your right pointer finger over your left nostril. Exhale from your right nostril. Continue this back-and-forth breathing sequence until you feel relaxed and reinvigorated.

Equal breathing. The goal of this technique is to inhale and exhale for the same number of counts.

Start by slowly inhaling through the nose for four counts. Remember to breathe from your diaphragm and not your chest. Exhale through the nostrils for four counts. By counting the seconds of your inhale and exhale, your mind refocuses away from stressors such as work or traffic, to the simplicity and serenity of your breathing.

Don’t waste your breath. Practice these exercises several times a day for calmness, clarity, and conditioned lungs.

Earn it.