Breathing Exercises

The way we breathe can affect the way we live. Breathing is often taken for granted for it is such an involuntary process. There is no thinking involved in breathing. But a conscious effort to be aware of breathing has showed some brilliant results. Especially in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Breathing and cancer

In India, the simple breathing exercises called pranayama. In a study conducted on patients receiving chemotherapy concluded how practising pranayama helped them cope better with stress and anxiety, the common side effects of chemotherapy.

The Relaxing Breath

Shanti Norris, a yoga teacher who works with people with cancer, explains: “One cannot feel anxious as long as one is breathing slowly and deeply.” Her instructions for managing stress with “The Relaxing Breath”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie on your back on the floor. Take a moment to get comfortable. Feel your body. Take a deep breath or two.
  2. Now take a breath by inhaling into the nose and exhaling out the mouth. The exhalation is like an audible sigh: AAAHHH! Do this three or four times. In through the nose and out through the mouth. AAHH. This is the most relaxing breath.
  3. Continue for one to two minutes.
  4. Let the breath come back to normal.

But How Does It Happen?

In yoga, pranayama deals with regulation and expansion of breath. The breathing techniques were given form to clear the chaos in the mind. So that our mind does not run after the many thoughts going through it. But studies have shown that apart from calming the mind, breathing exercises also affect our health.

This is related to an increased oxygen intake. In a state of awareness, we tend to take deeper breaths and so, take in more oxygen. It helps in replenishing cell growth, detoxifying the body and alleviating fatigue.

Breathing exercises can be of many types. But the two most common ones are abdominal breathing and controlled breathing. Abdominal breathing involves pressing your stomach while breathing out to push all the air out. Then taking a deep breath which helps in expanding the lungs to their full capacity.

Controlled breathing involves breathing in from the nose but breathing out from the mouth. This is a useful technique especially when one is feeling breathless. It brings the attention to breathing and helps in relieving stress.


References & More Information

  1. Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
  2. Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
  3. Yoga Breathing for Cancer Chemotherapy–Associated Symptoms and Quality of Life: Results of a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial 
  4. Breathing and relaxation techniques 
  5. Norris S. Progressive Relaxation. Smith Center for Healing & the Arts. Viewed April 18, 2018.

In this article


Scroll to Top