Updated: Jul 28
Looking to incorporate breathwork practices into your regular health routine? Keep reading for three simple and effective practices you can start using right away to lower your blood pressure.
3 Easy Breathing Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure and Anxiety
In today’s stressful world, we’re all looking for ways to improve our physical as well as mental health. Although medical technology is always coming up with new ways to improve our quality of life, the ancient and simple practice of breathwork is still one of the best ways to make positive changes to our lifestyle. Mindful breathing is shown to increase positive thoughts [*], increase respiratory efficiency [*], and improve blood pressure [*]. Looking to incorporate breathwork practices into your regular health routine? Keep reading for three simple and breathing techniques you can start using right away.
The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle just below the lungs that contracts or relaxes with the lungs during breathing. Engaging the diaphragm in deep breathing has been shown to improve lung capacity and respiratory function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may help with an incredible variety of issues including reducing stress, treating eating disorders, constipation, hypertension, migraine, and anxiety; and improving the cardiorespiratory fitness of patients with heart failure [*].
When you breathe deeply from your diaphragm, it has a calming effect on your body. This lowers your heart rate to promote heart health and helps to lower blood pressure. Diaphragmatic breathing also helps to improve your blood circulation throughout your body. Additionally, deep breathing helps to release tension from your muscles, which further relaxes your body and lowers blood pressure. All of these factors of diaphragmatic breathing work together to create a cascade of health benefits from this breathing exercise that can help to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent.
Put one hand on your chest and the other high on your belly.
Slowly inhale through your nose and imagine filling your lower belly with air while you are taking these deep breaths.
The hand on your chest should stay still while the one on your belly should rise with your deep breath. This breathing technique can be a little challenging but keep working at it.
Use your abdominal muscles to push your exhale, and you should feel the hand on your belly fall back into place [*].
Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise has quickly become a popular breathing technique due to its simplicity. This breathing exercise is similar to yogic pranayama breathing, which is shown to reduce systolic blood pressure and arterial pressure as well as heart rate [*].
One study found that 4-7-8 breathing lowered blood pressure in people with mild hypertension, and another small study found that the breathing technique improved heart rate variability in people with anxiety. While more research is needed to confirm these findings, 4-7-8 breathing is a simple and easy way to try to reduce blood pressure and get it back to normal blood pressure.
To practice 4-7-8 breathing, Dr. Weil instructs to place the tip of the tongue behind the front teeth, pursing the lips if that helps. All you need to do to practice this beneficial exercise anytime that will reduce blood pressure is remember the numbers 4-7-8.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Focus on deep breaths.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths [*].
Alternate Nostril Breathing
According to a 2020 study, alternate nostril breathing significantly improved respiratory function and assisted with bringing the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system functions into a harmonic state [*]. Considered the simplest yogic breathing exercise to perform, alternate nostril breathing is most effective if practiced for ten minutes at a time.
This type of breathing is also known as nadi shodhana, which means "cleansing the channels." The practice is said to cleanse the energy channels in the body, promoting balance and harmony.
There are many benefits of alternate nostril breathing, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep quality, and boosting energy levels. The practice is also said to improve digestion, relieve headaches and migraines, and lower blood pressure to get it back to normal blood pressure. Alternate nostril breathing is a simple yet powerful tool that can be used to promote overall health and well-being.
Interested in practicing this beneficial exercise? Here are the simple steps to follow:
Sit in a quiet and peaceful location.
Bring your right hand up to your nose and move your forefinger and middle finger out of the way.
Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
With this nostril covered, close your eyes and inhale fully and slowly through your left nostril. Focus on deep breaths.
Release your right nostril and put your ring finger on the left nostril.
Open the right nostril and exhale. Make sure your breath is smooth and continuous.
Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril.
Open the left nostril and exhale on the left side.
This is one cycle.
Repeat the full process two or more times [*].
*Try enhancing your breathing experience with this herbal facial steam by Ora's Amazing Herbals for internal and external benefits.
Stress and High Blood Pressure
Stress and high blood pressure often go hand in hand. When you're under stress, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, as well as other health problems.
There are many ways to manage stress, such as relaxation techniques, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices. If you're struggling to manage your stress levels, talk to your doctor about other options, such as counseling or medication.
*Monitor improvements in your blood pressure with our Blood Pressure Tracker. This is a great tool to assist your MD in finding the right plan of care for you.
Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure with Breathing Exercises Daily Routine:
1. Make time for relaxation.
In our busy lives, it can be difficult to find time to relax. However, it’s important to make relaxation a priority. set aside at least 10 minutes each day to find a quiet space to focus on your breathing.
2. Find a comfortable position.
You can do breathing exercises anywhere, but it’s important to find a position that is comfortable for you. If you’re lying down, be sure to support your head and neck with a pillow.
3. Focus on your breath.
Once you’re in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, filling up your lungs. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Focus on taking deep breaths.
4. Make it a habit.
Try to do breathing exercises every day, either in the morning or evening. If you’re feeling stressed during the day, take a few minutes to stop and focus on your breath.
Benefits of using an Air Purifier:
An air purifier can help to remove allergens, dust, and other airborne particles from the air, making it easier to breathe and reducing the risk of respiratory problems.
Best Air Purifiers of 2022 [*]:
Best Overall Air Purifier: Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier
Best Value Air Purifier: Levoit Core 400S
Best Air Purifier for Allergies: Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover Air Purifier
Best Air Purifier for Odors: Coway Mighty Air Purifier
Final Thoughts on Breathing Exercises to Help Lower Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association states that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects about 1 in 3 adults in the United States. High blood pressure increases your risk of serious health conditions, including heart attack and stroke.
While there are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure, one of the most important is your breathing. When you breathe deeply and slowly, it has a calming effect on your body and can help to reduce blood pressure.
Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to lower blood pressure. By incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine, you can help to reduce your risk of serious health problems due to high blood pressure. Deep breathing exercises are a vital part of a total health program, benefiting both physical and mental health.
If you are looking to incorporate these deep breathing exercises into your routine and improve your mindfulness practice, our mindfulness and gratitude journals are a great way to get started. Remember, you can practice these specific breathing exercises anytime, even in your workplace, when you need time to decompress. You can even pair them with affirmations.