To lower your blood pressure by breathing you need to breathe slowly and through your nose. The focus should be on the exhalation which will ideally be twice as long as the inhalation. Breathing this way will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, decrease heart rate and increase heart rate variability.
It’s that simple, or not? The theory is indeed simple, the application isn’t. If you want to learn:
a. How to develop a breathing practice safely while having high blood 🩸 pressure?
b. How breathwork can help smokers 🚬?
c. Which breathing 😤 exercises should be avoided?
What is the best breathing technique for high blood pressure?
While a lot of exercises claim to be the best for lower blood pressure, there is not one that works for equally well for everyone. Most individuals suffering from high blood pressure will benefit by breathing slowly and through the nose at all times.
Which is the best breathing exercise for YOU though depends on:
a. How high is your blood pressure currently
b. Your experience with breathwork
c. Your breathing capacity
If are not sure about the above, do the following:
• Lay on your back, with legs or knees elevated. Support your head with a pillow if you feel pressure on your neck. Place one hand ✋🏼 on your chest and the other 🤚🏼 on your abdomen, while both elbows resting on the floor.
• Close your eyes 👀, close your mouth 👄 and start following the movement of your hands. Your goal is to make the hand on your abdomen move as much or even more than that of your chest.
• While you are maintaining nasal 👃🏼 breathing throughout, you want to slow down your breath as much as possible. Practice for 5-10 mins.
• When you finish the breathing exercise, stay laying down for an additional 3-5 mins, observing your thoughts and your breath. When it is time to get up move slowly.
What to do when breathing feels uncomfortable?
If your breath is labored and you have a history of cardiovascular problems without any delay you should call the ambulance. They will advise you what to do in the meantime.
If you are experiencing shortness of breath your 1st concern should be to reduce your Heart Rate. That’s when previous experience with breathwork or meditation comes in handy.
If you have a meditation practice: meditate. Assuming you have no prior experience, do the following:
• Sit down 🪑 in a quiet place, with your back supported.
• Close your eyes 👀, and try to breathe only from your nose 👃🏼 making the breath as quiet as possible. It might be hard initially but after 1-2 mins it should get easier. Until breathing is comfortable avoid doing anything else. If the shortness of breath persists for more than 10 mins, seek help.
• Once you have established a more regular breathing pattern, start prolonging your exhalation. Do that for 10 mins. Before you stand up, spend 2-5 mins breathing regularly.
A protocol based on your breathing capacity
If you suffer from high blood pressure and want to practice some breathwork, the 1st thing you need to do is determine your respiratory capacity. Do the following 2 tests:
• the Control Pause (video)
• the Maximum Breathlessness Test (video)
If your Control Pause (CP) is below <15 sec and your Maximum Breathlessness Test (MBT) <30 steps.
If your scores are higher than that you should be introducing short breath holds in your breathing practice. The following exercise will help you achieve that.
Can breathing exercises help smokers?
Absolutely. There is actually a common element between smoking & breathing exercises:
During both smoking and breathwork, we recruit our diaphragm to pull more air into our lungs, activating this way our vagus nerve & the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
The more you get used to calming your nervous system down, through breathwork, the less likely it will be to seek the same sensation through cigarettes. Breathing after all offers us a backdoor to the Nervous System.
Breathing Protocol for Smoking
First and foremost you need to get your maximum breath-hold time to 20 seconds if you are a woman 👩🏼🦰, or 32 seconds if you are a man 🧔🏻. According to a 1987 study, by achieving these scores you will be more resilient to withdrawal and anxiety symptoms, doubling your chances of success. Practicing a CO2 table once a day can help you achieve that.
The next step is to train your body to breathe right. The Breathe Right 5 day self-paced online course is developed to help you achieve that. The only way to be a good breather is by breathing right when you are not conscious of your breath.
The exercises included in this course have been found in research 🔬 to efficiently deal with nicotine withdrawal [ref. 1, ref. 2].
Why is it hard to breathe after quitting smoking?
Cilia, hair-like protuberances, in the lungs are responsible for capturing microbes and debris so they can get sequentially excreted. Nicotine (in cigarettes) paralyzes the cilia which is why a few weeks after discontinuing smoking coaching may increase.
Can breathing exercises raise blood pressure?
Yes. There are actually too many breathing exercises, for me to list here, that can raise blood pressure. Here’s a list of categories:
• Fast breathing exercises, including kapalabhati, bhastrika.
• Hyperventilation techniques, including Wim Hof Breathing, Rebirthing, Holotropic.
• Those that involve an increase of intra-abdominal pressure including Valsalva Maneuver.
• Breathing exercises that bring the body into deep hypoxia.
Does holding your breath lower blood pressure?
It does. Breath-holds activate the baroreflex receptors in the body that slow down our heart rate and sequentially decrease our blood pressure. At the same time holding our breath for too long will increase adrenaline: a red flag 🚩 for those with high blood pressure.
Those with some breathing experience can use short breath holds to reduce their blood pressure.
Does the 478 breathing technique lower blood pressure?
For most people, it should. Whether it will for you depends on your sensitivity to CO2 and breath-hold capacity. In the 478 breathing you: inhale for 4, hold your breath for 7, exhale for 8. The breath-hold and the prolonged exhalation will activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Can deep breathing help heartburn?
The most efficient exercise when you have heartburn is a breath-hold.
For Heartburn: Inhale – Hold up to 80% of max capacity – Slowly Exhale (Repeat until the pain diminishes)
Belly breathing ( video ) can also provide positive results in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a 2011 study, but the benefits are more long-term and the relief is not as quick as with breath holds.
How do you know if you have lack of oxygen?
To identify the levels of oxygen in your blood you will need an oximeter. If you don’t have one, and you have cardiovascular issues, it will be worth investing in one. Nonin is my go-to brand.
Those that practice breathing exercises regularly are more likely to:
a. reduce their blood pressure long term
b. drop their blood pressure in an acute spike.
Apart from breathing exercises, that are geared to train our biochemistry, physical exercises, training our respiratory muscles can also be of benefit to those with high blood pressure.
A 2021 study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that 5 mins of inspiratory muscle strength work, performed for 5min, 6 days per week is sufficient to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. For that reason, I advocate a combination of both breathwork & yoga when it comes to lowering blood pressure.
To improve your breathing when you are not conscious of it, check out the Breathe Right 5 day self-paced online course.