Living With Chronic Pain

Breathing Exercises to Lessen Pain

Every breath impacts our health. Deeper, fuller breaths improve how we move and think. It gets life nourishing oxygen to all areas of the body. Short, shallow breaths occurs when we are stressed, anxious and in pain, diminishing the air we get into our lungs, causing the body to react as if in a “fight or flight” mode to survive. 

Learning deep breathing techniques can actually expand lung capacity and aid in fuller breaths both actively and passively. This then improves posture, realigns the spine, drops the heart rate and relaxes tendons, ligaments and muscles.

Here are some easy ways to get the most out of each breath:

In past posts I’ve discussed a quick way to stop hyperventilating and allow us to relax and release built up tension without the obvious paper bag. It also is a perfect lesson in deep breathing that calms not just the mind, but the body as well. Anytime, anywhere take the time to reset throughout the day.

  • Breathe in to the count of five.
  • Hold your breath to the count of five.
  • Breath out to the count of five.
  • Hold your breath to the count of five.
  • Repeat until you feel relaxed.

Pursed breathing:

Ever notice people breathing through pursed lips? Most don’t even know they’re doing it. But it’s a great way to slow fast breathing and reduce anxiety from hyperventilating. It can also pace breathing when stair climbing or lifting.

  • Start by relaxing your neck and shoulders.
  • Inhale through the nose to a count of five.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips for a count of five.
  • Repeat.


  • Sit or recline comfortably.
  • Support your head, keep shoulders down.
  • Open lips slightly so your jaw isn’t clenched.*
  • Exhale through your mouth, then breathe in through your nose, feeling it filling in your abdomen as it rises to the count of five. 
  • Exhale through your mouth for a count of five, relaxing with each exhalation.
  • Repeat. 

Lying down:

  • Support the head with a pillow.
  • Bend knees.
  • Place one hand on your chest the other below your rib cage.*
  • Breath in through your nose filling your stomach move outward against your hand.
  • Keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  • Tighten the stomach and exhale through pursed lips.
  • Repeat for 5-10 minutes.

Alternate nostrils:

  • Start with the Vishnu Mudra position- bend your index and middle fingers onto your palm keeping your thumb, ring and pinky fingers extended.*
  • Sit comfortably 
  • Close your eyes 
  • Take 3 deep breaths.
  • Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.
  • Open and exhale through your right nostril.
  • Inhale through your right nostril.
  • Close off right nostril with your thumb.
  • Open and exhale through your left nostril.
  • Inhale through your left nostril.
  • Repeat for ten breaths each side.

Lions breath or simhasana in Sanskrit:

  • Spread your fingers wide.
  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, letting it hang by your chin.
  • Exhale as forcefully as possible while making a deep roaring sound that starts deep in your belly.
  • Breath normally for a minute.
  • Then repeat lions breath multiple times.  It will relax tight facial and jaw muscles and improve cardiovascular circulation.

Not in to meditation? Try this:

  • Alternate deep and normal breathing for a few minutes.
  • Notice the difference between normal breaths and how the abdomen expands with deep breathing.
  • Place a hand on your belly and watch it rise and fall with deep breathing.
  • As you breathe in, tell yourself you’re inhaling calm and relaxation.
  • As you breath out, tell yourself you’re expelling anxiety and tension.
  • Add a deep sigh when you breath out.
  • Continue for ten minutes.

It may feel awkward initially, but with time it’ll become a way to quickly restore your breathing and relax throughout the day. Perform these exercises 3-4 times a day and you’ll be amazed at how much calmer and relaxed you’ll feel. With all that tension gone and deeper, fuller, more oxygen rich breaths the entire body will feel rejuvenated and less pain. Meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, and other methods are other wonderful ways to exercise and deep breath at the same time. 







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