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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Klemmetson

Benefits of Breathing Exercises

Updated: May 9, 2023

While there are many benefits of breathing exercises, one that is often overlooked is that they can be done anywhere at any time. Unlike yoga where you may want a mat and some blocks or other props, pranayama can be done at your desk, in your car or even in a chair at chemo. Here are some of the best benefits of pranayama for cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones:

  • Decrease stress.

  • Increase mindfulness.

  • Lower blood pressure.

  • Improve lung function.

  • Reduce fatigue.

5 Pranayama Breathing Exercises

Yogic Breath

Yogic breath (diaphragmatic breath or belly breathing). This is the foundational exercise that all beginners should start with to learn yoga breathing. During any yoga class, this is the breath you can come back to. With diaphragmatic breath or belly breathing, you focus on using your belly instead of your chest to breathe.

How it’s done: Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out, while your chest remains as still as possible. Then, tighten your stomach muscles while you exhale through your mouth, so your stomach moves back in and your upper chest continues to remain as still as possible.


  • Increases lung capacity

  • Boosts immune system

  • Reduces stress

  • Lowers heart rate

Sama Vritti

Sama Vritti Pranayama (equal breath or box breath) is a basic breath focuses on having your inhalations and exhalations the same length. It is all about balancing and deeply relaxing. It's a four part breath, with inhales, exhales and holds at the top and bottom (like a box with four sides).

How it’s done: Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath in for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath out for a count of 4. If a count of 4 is too much for you to begin with, you can start with 2 or 3. You can think of a box with all four sides the same size, so just make sure all parts of the box breath are the same length.


  • Balances the mind

  • Reduces worry

  • Increases oxygen to the brain

Nadi Sodhana

Nadi Sodhana Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) is a more challenging practice that involves breathing through one nostril at a time. It is a great way to bring balance to your energy, focus on your breathing and calm your mind.

How it’s done: Begin by closing the right nostril with the thumb as you inhale through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril with the ring/pinky fingers as you open and exhale through the right nostril. The right nostril stays open for an inhale and then you close it as you open and slowly exhale through the left. This is one cycle of breath.


  • Relaxes body and mind

  • Reduces anxiety

  • Improves overall well-being

Dirga Pranayama

Dirga Pranayama (three part or complete breath) is a foundational pranayama used in yoga classes. It can improve breath awareness and lung capacity.

How it’s done: The three parts are your chest, ribcage and belly. You will use all three parts with each breath. Inhale through the nose, filling the chest, ribs and belly. Now you will reverse it. Exhale through the mouth, starting with the belly, ribs and chest.


  • Increases oxygen supply

  • Decreases anxiety

  • Improves mindfulness

Ujjayi Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama (ocean breath) is the foundational breath for most styles of yoga. It is calming, invigorating and improves focus and concentration.

How it’s done: To start, inhale deeply through your nose. Constrict the back of your throat and breathe out through your mouth. This should make a sound similar to ocean waves. You can also pretend like you are fogging up a mirror with the breath, which should create the same effect.


  • Slows heart rate

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Improves sleep

To get started with a regular yoga practice, get in touch. I offer a variety of ways to take classes - online and in person!

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