Breathing is more than a mere life-sustaining activity. It's a scientifically proven gateway to influence our nervous system, enabling us to control our physiological and psychological responses. By changing our breathing patterns, we can shift from stress to relaxation and focus, impacting our overall energy and health.

Different breathing techniques have different benefits; some are proven to boost our energy levels significantly. For instance, by increasing oxygen uptake and enhancing blood circulation, some techniques ensure more energy-rich blood reaches our body's cells. This enhanced oxygenation leads to improved organ function, heightened alertness, and a surge in vitality.

If you are looking to kick-start your day right and need that extra push without caffeine, here are three techniques to try that cost nothing and will take less than 10 minutes of your time:


#1. Breath Holds

Breath holds, or voluntary apnea, is a practice often used by athletes like free divers to improve their lung capacity, focus, and stress management. It involves holding your breath for a certain period of time, then resting by breathing normally for a specific duration and repeating the process.

The Science Behind Breath Holds

Breath holds work by accumulating carbon dioxide in the blood, which can increase tolerance to carbon dioxide and improve oxygen utilization. Breath Holds teach us how to de-escalate a sympathetic arousal which has beneficial side effects such as stress relief, improved focus, and enhanced well-being. Regular practice can also enhance lung capacity, reduce oxidative stress and improve respiratory efficiency.

How to Practice Breath Holds

To practice safely, begin with a comfortable inhalation, then hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling slowly. Gradually increase the duration of breath holds as your comfort improves. However, newcomers should be mindful of its intensity and practice cautiously. Always start with beginner practices in a safe environment, preferably seated or lying down. When practicing in the water, you need an experienced freediver next to you to ensure your safety, as it can lead to oxygen deprivation and, thus, possible loss of consciousness.

If you need extra guidance, do it with an Oxa app. Just look for a Finding Comfort in Anxiety II exercise.

#2. Cyclic Hyperventilation or Wim Hof Breathing

Cyclic Hyperventilation, famously known as the Wim Hof Method, is not just a practice for extreme athletes. Anyone looking to enhance their mental resilience can benefit from it. And if you're after an advanced effect, couple it with cold exposure.

The Science Behind Wim Hof Breathing

Cyclic hyperventilation works by temporarily increasing oxygen levels and reducing carbon dioxide in the blood. This can lead to an alkaline state in the body instead of overly acidic, which is thought to influence the immune response and reduce inflammation.

Benefits of this breathing include improved energy, better stress management, enhanced concentration, and an overall sense of well-being.

How to Practice Wim Hof Breathing

Start with deep inhales followed by passive exhales. After 30-40 rounds, finish with one last exhalation, and hold your breath for as long as is comfortable. Stay calm and relaxed, welcoming new sensations and thoughts. Repeat this cycle three to four times. Practicing safely, seated, or lying is crucial to avoid dizziness or fainting – do not do this when driving or while in the water.

If you want a guided practice, look for a Power Breathing II exercise in the Oxa app. However, newcomers should be mindful of its intensity and practice with caution. Start with level 1 and progress your way through.

#3. Box Breathing

Box breathing is a simple yet powerful technique Navy SEALs use to maintain calm and focus. Members of the military also use it for stress regulation and performance improvement. The practice involves four phases: inhaling, holding, exhaling, and pausing, each for an equal count.

The Science Behind Box Breathing

Box breathing has both physiological and psychological benefits. Physiologically, it helps regulate breath, increases oxygen to the lungs, and can help reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate. Psychologically, it can help with controlling and managing emotions.

How to Practice Box Breathing

Inhale slowly to a count of four, hold your breath for four counts, then exhale smoothly for four counts, and finally, wait for four counts before the next breath. Stay relaxed, and repeat this cycle for several minutes. It's an excellent exercise to calm the mind and can be practiced anywhere.

You can also do it with an Oxa app. Just search for a Box Breathing 4:4:4:4 exercise.

Incorporating these breathing techniques into your daily life can profoundly impact your energy levels and overall well-being. Whether through the disciplined practice of breath holds, the energizing cycles of Wim Hof breathing, or the calming rhythm of box breathing, these exercises offer accessible paths to enhanced vitality and mental clarity. Remember to listen to your body and practice these techniques within your comfort zone for the best results.

Boosting your day with breathing exercises FAQ:

Q: How can I quickly boost my energy and focus during the day?

For a quick boost of energy and focus, try breathing exercises such as Breath Holds, Cyclic Hyperventilation (Wim Hof Breathing), or Box Breathing. These techniques can be done in less than 10 minutes and have been proven to increase oxygen uptake, enhance blood circulation, and promote mental clarity.

Q: Are these breathing exercises suitable for beginners?

Yes, these exercises are suitable for people at all levels. Beginners should start with shorter durations and gradually increase as they become more comfortable with the techniques. It's important to listen to your body and practice within your comfort zone.

Q: Can I do these breathing exercises anywhere?

Absolutely! The beauty of these exercises is that they can be practiced almost anywhere, whether at home, in the office, or even outdoors. All you need is a few minutes and a comfortable space. However, be mindful that some practices, like breath holds, shouldn't be performed in the water or while driving.

Q: Do I need any special equipment for these exercises?

No special equipment is required for these breathing exercises. However, you can enhance your practice with the Oxa app, which offers guided exercises and helps track your progress. It also helps establish slow and steady diaphragmatic or belly breathing to ensure optimum exercise efficacy.

Q: How long does it take to see the benefits of these breathing exercises?

After practicing these exercises, many people immediately feel the benefits, such as increased energy, low stress, and improved focus. Regular practice can lead to more significant and lasting benefits, like HRV boost, resilience to stress, and a greater sense of self-awareness.

Q: How do I know which breathing exercise is right for me?

The best way to find out is to try each one and see how you feel. Each technique offers unique benefits, so you might prefer one over the others depending on your current needs and comfort level.

Stéphane Janssoone
May 28, 2024

A former elite triathlete, now a competitive freediver, MBTI I & 2, Certified Wim Hof, and Oxygen Advantage Instructor, epitomizes mastery in breathwork and personal development. As the founder of the Breathing Academy and Oxa Life’s Breathing Advisor, his transformative breath-based techniques profoundly impact individuals’ health and performance through an innovative and holistic approach.

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Get the Oxa Sensor and your choice of garment - lounge-wear shirt, bra, or adjustable chest strap. Your purchase includes access to the Oxa app which gives personalized data summaries and insights, as well as access to breathing exercises to teach you how to harness the power of your own breath.