Have you ever noticed…
When you’re particularly stressed, it can be hard to take a deep breath?
That’s because your body is in fight-or-flight mode.
Which means your breathing becomes shallow and often times rushed.
In the chaos of themodern world, it’s easy to forget to take a few moments each day to just breathe.
We’ll provide some guidance on how to maximize your experience with breathing exercises.
But first, let’s explore the benefits and go over some of the best breathing exercises for seniors.
What is Breathwork?
Breathwork is an umbrella term for various breathing techniques to achieve greater physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
The key is focusing on your breathing patterns and manipulating them to achieve specific effects, like reducing stress or increasing energy levels.
Simply put, it’s a way to use your breath as a tool for self-care and healing. By taking control of your breathing patterns, you can access deeper levels of inner peace and calmness.
While there are many different types of breathwork practices, they all have one thing in common: they help unlock the body’s natural healing powers by allowing you to access your subconscious mind.
And this might sound a bit too woo-woo for some of you, but breathing exercises can deliver real and tangible benefits when done correctly.
Don’t knock ’em ’til you try ’em!
Benefits of Breathing Exercises for Seniors
An age-old saying goes, “Take a deep breath.”
It seems like the go-to phrase whenever we need to center ourselves and gain composure in any given situation.
But there’s more to breathing exercises than finding your “Zen.”
It turns out that breathing exercises, like all mindfulness practices, are extremely beneficial.
Some of the benefits of breathing for older adults are:
- Improved breathing capacity — a study on elderly smokers found improvements in lung capacity after as little as four weeks
- Reduced stress & anxiety levels — learning breathing techniques significantly reduces anxiety and lowers stress hormones
- Enhanced concentration & focus — breathing exercises help the mind become more alert and aware, allowing you to stay on task
- Increased energy levels — an astonishing 78% of participants in a recent study reported boosted energy levels after improving their nasal breathing
- Better sleep quality — breathing exercises promote relaxation and have even helped insomniacs with sleep onset, quality, and duration
- Lower blood pressure levels — even a 5-minute daily breathing exercise can regulate blood pressure as well as drugs or exercise
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced breathing exercises are beneficial let’s look at some of the best breathing exercises for seniors.
5 Best Breathing Exercises for Seniors
#1 Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing) is the practice of taking deep breaths while focusing on expanding the abdomen rather than the chest.
This type of breathwork encourages slow, rhythmic breaths that activate the diaphragm — a muscle in the abdomen responsible for controlling respiration.
How to Do the Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
- Find a comfy, flat surface to sit or lie down on
- Place one hand on the chest and the other on your stomach to feel your breathing
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and fill your belly with air
- You should feel your abdomen expanding outward as you inhale while your chest remains still
- Exhale slowly through your mouth and let the air escape, contracting your belly back to its original position
- Repeat breathing in and out for 5 minutes or until you start feeling the effects
#2 Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing, also known as nadi shodhana pranayama in Sanskrit, is a type of breathwork that involves taking deep breaths while alternating between the right and left nostrils.
The goal of this practice is to create balance in your body by calming the nervous system and decreasing levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
It’s amazing how something so simple and ancient can have such a profound effect.
How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise
- Begin by sitting comfortably on a flat surface
- Place your left hand over the knee
- Exhale completely
- Use the thumb of your right hand to gently close off the right nostril
- Inhale deeply through the left nostril
- Close off the left nostril and exhale through the right
- Continue breathing in this pattern for 5 to 10 minutes or however long feels comfortable
#3 Box Breathing
Box breathing, also known as 4-square breathing or square breathing, is a simple yet powerful mindfulness practice that helps you relax and focus your mind.
Box breathing aims to slow down your breath while focusing on each inhale and exhale. It’s especially beneficial for improved relaxation, focus, comfort, and energy.
How to Do the Box Breathing Exercise
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed
- Inhale deeply for a count of 4
- Hold your breath inward for a count of 4
- Exhale completely for a count of 4
- Hold your breath outward for a count of 4
- Repeat this breathing sequence until you feel completely relaxed and at ease
#4 Lion’s Breath
Lion’s Breath is a yoga breathing exercise that is powerful enough for a lion yet simple enough for everyone to do. But don’t worry — you won’t have to roar (kind of).
This practice helps to unblock energy channels throughout the body and can be done anywhere at any time. Lion’s Breath is said to help strengthen one’s voice and recharge depleted energy levels.
It also calms the mind, relieves stress and anxiety, and encourages relaxation.
How to Do the Lion’s Breath
- Start by sitting up straight in a relaxed but alert position
- Lean forward and place your palms on the floor
- Inhale deeply through the nose
- As you exhale through your mouth with force, stick out your tongue and make an “ahhh” sound (which will sound like a quiet lion roaring)
- Breathe normally for 1 to 3 minutes
- Repeat this process for several breaths until you feel fully relaxed and energized
#5 Pursed-Lip Breathing
When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, the pursed-lip breathing technique can be your saving grace. This breathing exercise helps to slow your breathing and reduce anxiety.
Pursed-lip breathing can also be beneficial if you are feeling short of breath or have breathing difficulties. It helps you to control your breathing and use oxygen more efficiently.
How to Do the Pursed-Lip Breathing Exercise
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position
- Breathe in slowly through your nose for 2 counts
- Pucker up your lips as if you were whistling or blowing a kiss
- Breathe out slowly through your pursed lips for 4 counts
- Continue breathing in this pattern for several breaths or until you feel calmer
8 Tips for Doing Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises can be done anywhere and anytime, but it’s important to take some time to practice breathing correctly.
Here are a few tips that may help:
- Get comfy — Find a comfortable spot in your home or outdoors where you can focus on breathing without distractions
- Micro-step — Take it a single micro-step at a time; start with short breathing sessions and gradually increase the length as you become more comfortable
- Take needed breaks — If you start feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or uncomfortable in any way, stop and take a break before continuing
- Close your eyes — Always remember to close your eyes while breathing, as it can help to keep distractions at bay and focus on breathing correctly
- Relax your whole body — Don’t forget to relax your body, from your head down to your toes
- Listen to music — this is an optional tip, but music can be very therapeutic and calming when breathing
- Reflect — After breathing exercises, take a few moments to reflect on how you feel and appreciate the benefits that breathing has brought
- Be consistent — As with any habit, consistency is key. Aim to practice breathing exercises daily during your morning routine or evening routine for the best results
Uncover the Power of Breathwork
Breathing is an integral part of our lives, yet powerful breathwork is often neglected.
For seniors especially, breathing exercises can provide a variety of benefits — from improving breathing capacity to reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.
To recap our favorite breathing exercises:
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Box breathing
- Lion’s Breath
- Pursed-lip breathing
Give them a try, and you’ll be breathing easy and calming your nervous system in no time!
And you won’t just feel the immediate effects: breathing exercises provide long-term benefits for seniors.