Learn How to Breathe Well + Breathwork Benefits

balloon breathing

Did you know that we take up to 23,000 breaths each day? Learn to make them count! Most of us are never actually taught how to breathe well. Breathing is just something we do automatically without thinking about it. When we learn to breathe well, we can harness the powerful benefits of breathwork.

What is Breathwork?

Breathwork is simply the practice of doing breathing exercises in order to breathe well intentionally. Regular breathwork practice strengthens our breathing habits and breathing muscles over time and offers many health benefits.

Breathwork Benefits

  • Reduce stress and promote relaxation
  • Balance the PH level in the blood
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Release tension from the body
  • Lower heart rate
  • Build awareness and self-regulation 
  • Improve respiratory function
  • Fight fatigue and improve energy levels
  • Promote concentration and cognitive function
Breathing is our link to the nervous system.  

Have you ever watched a baby breathe while sleeping?  Babies intuitively breathe well with a full belly expansion on the inhale and narrowing on the exhale.  So, what this means is that we used to breathe this way, so it is just a matter of re-learning how to breathe optimally.

belly breathe well

The way we breathe has a substantial impact on our thoughts and feelings. Our breathing habits can be used to send messages to the nervous system to quiet our minds, reduce stress, and make us feel safe and secure.

“Our Breathing is the only system in the body that is both completely automatic and also under our control.” 

~ Dan Brule, Breathmastery

Vertical vs. Horizontal Breathing Styles

Vertical and horizontal breathing are terms used to describe breathing styles and habits, coined by Dr. Belisa Vranich, author of BREATHE™: The Simple, Revolutionary 14-Day Program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health and creator of The Breathing Class™.

Dr. Belisa specializes in breathing styles’ mechanics and psychology and helps people re-learn how to breathe the way our bodies are designed to breathe. As a society, we are generally horrible breathers, so the goal is to dismantle poor breathing habits, unlock the diaphragm, and re-learn how to breathe optimally.  

When you breathe into your chest (vertically), your body feels like it is under attack (fight or flight), and the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This puts you in an alert state all day long, creating stress, anxiety, and tension. 

Alternatively, when we breathe low and slow (horizontally) into the belly, the vagus nerve signals the parasympathetic nervous system to rest and digest. This gives you more control over your reactions and calms the mind and body

breathwork benefits

“When your state changes, your breathing pattern changes. And it’s a two-way street: when you change your breathing pattern, you change your state! We can use the breath to hack into our nervous system, our brain, our immune system. We can use the breath to choose our state!”  

~ Dan Brule, Breathmastery

Why do you need to learn how to breathe? And how can it soothe an overwhelmed or anxious child?

Our breath is the most accessible tool we can use anytime, anywhere. By learning to control our breathing, we can influence our emotional state as well as our health. Amid COVID-19, breathwork gives us something we can control when so much feels out of control.

According to Donna Farhi, author of The Breathing Book, “Breathing affects your respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular, and psychic systems and also has a general effect on your sleep, your memory, your energy level, and your concentration. Everything you do, the pace you keep, the feelings you have, and the choices you make are influenced by the rhythmic metronome of your breath.” 

The breath is the mirror of how we feel. This means that changing our breath can change the way we feel.

Parent Tip! Teach your kids HOW to breathe to tap into this direct link to the nervous system!

3 Steps to Breathe Well

There are many ways to work on intentional breathing. Here are three simple practices to try with your children that can help you tap into those breathwork benefits right away:

1. The Deep Exhale

 When you’re upset, someone might tell you, “Take a deep breath.” This focus on a deep inhale only tells half the story of deep breathing. If you want to experience all the breathwork benefits, you also need to pay attention to your exhale.

A long, slow exhale purges the stale air out of your lungs. Remember, your lungs aren’t just for taking in oxygen – they are a critical part of detoxing as well. A deep exhale completes the full circle of breathwork, allowing the body to release the negative (physically and energetically).

Parent Tip! Balloons are a fun way for kids to practice exhaling all the air out. 

balloon breathing

2. The Horizontal Breath

Let’s come back to horizontal breathing. Remember, vertical breathing focuses on breathing into the chest. Horizontal breathing brings the breath into the belly.

  • A horizontal breath that uses the diaphragm widens the belly, and rib cage on the inhale and narrows it on the exhale. 
  • Horizontal breathing calms the nervous system and turns off fight-or-flight mode.

This type of breathing is your body’s natural state – it’s the way you’re meant to breathe.

How to Belly Breathe (Horizontally)

Try this exercise to get in touch with how belly breathing feels:

  • Put your hands on your belly. 
  • Inhale and push your belly into your hands. Make a big belly!
  • Exhale and feel your body narrow like a deflating balloon. Flatten your belly toward the spine.
  • Inhale and expand, exhale, and narrow.
  • Repeat this rhythm 5-10 times.

Read more about belly breathing here.

3. The 4×4 Breathing Practice

box breathing

This last practice can help you regulate both your inhale and exhale while expanding the lungs. This is called the 4×4 breathing technique, and it’s easy to learn:

  • Inhale deeply to the count of four (1… 2… 3… 4)
  • Hold your breath to the count of four.
  • Exhale to the count of four.
  • Hold your breath to the count of four.
  • Repeat at least three times, and you’ll feel the difference!
Learn More Wellness Habits for Kids

 If you are looking for more ideas and tools to help your child discover their coping strategies, sign up to join our community, or follow us on social media @bebuddy.

Thanks for reading,

Stephanie 🧡 Founder/Owner of Balancing Elephants and creator of the BE Buddy®

P.S. A gift for you!  Download the FREE Self-Care for Kids with Anxiety- A Guide for Parents today! This printable 32-page guide is a great resource to help your child develop wellness from the inside out!

MA.Ed., Certified BREATHE™ Coach, RYT200, Yoga Calm® Youth Instructor I help kids surf the waves of life, one breath at a time!