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The 4 types of breathing (and how to learn them in meditation)

The 4 types of breathing (and how to learn them in meditation)

January 22, 2022

We all know that breathing is a vital activity for human beings , and not only because it allows us to stay alive. There are other ways in which this daily activity influences us.

Yes, we are aerobic beings and we have the need to capture oxygen from the environment and exchange it for carbon dioxide in our lungs, but there is no one correct way to inspire and expire. exist types of breathing alternative

Main types of breathing

It is possible to use different criteria to define types of breathing. For example, we can differentiate by the main component that is captured from the atmosphere, or classify it according to the mechanism that is used to proceed to gas exchange. But this time I will talk about the different breathing control techniques and its benefits on our health .


With the current pace of life we ​​are not aware that we perform an incorrect breath . We tend to breathe quickly and superficially, without maximizing our lung capacity. Associated with this fact is the appearance of different common health problems in large metropolises, such as stress and anxiety, which in turn make breathing more difficult.

A correct breathing is key to have good health . In the West the exercise of breathing has never been given too much importance to sustain our existence, but in the East we do find this. Specifically with the discipline of yoga, where they give great importance to correct conscious breathing to have good health of our body and mind.


1. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing

This type of breathing is based on the movement of diaphragm , the concave muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and that is responsible for the activity of breathing. When inspiring, the lungs they fill up little by little with air , pushing the diaphragm, which in turn pushes the organs of the abdominal cavity, giving the feeling that the belly is swelling. For this reason it is also known as abdominal breathing .

When exhaling, the lungs empty of air and occupy less space, being in a more restricted area. The diaphragm returns to its initial position. In yoga it is known as low breathing.

Tips to practice it

It is recommended that to start it is better to do it lying on your back, and as you master the technique go to other positions, such as sitting or standing. You have to be comfortable, with your hands on your abdomen, and perform the breathing exercise with your nose.


  • To begin it is necessary expel air from the lungs thoroughly , in order to provoke a deep inspiration for lack of air.
  • Inspire deeply and slowly, swelling the abdomen relaxed.
  • Catch the air for an instant.
  • When you feel the need to exhale , do it in a long, slow and deep way.
  • Stay without air in the lungs for a moment, and when you need to inspire, repeat the steps.

During the exercise it is also advisable to speak (for example, use of the expression OM), since the sound vibrations help to control the speed and rhythm of the inspirations and exhalations, as well as a relaxing effect on the rib cage.

Health benefits

This type of breathing allows expand the filling capacity of the lungs , which promotes a good oxygenation of the blood. The impulse of the movement that produces the diaphragm favors the sanguineous irrigation and stimulates the movement of the heart. The constant activity of the diaphragm makes a good massage to the organs of the abdominal cavity, favoring intestinal transit.

In addition, it acts on the solar plexus , a nervous network located at the beginning of the ventral aortic artery, making a relaxing effect and decreasing anxiety and the feeling of "stomach knot".

2. Costal or thoracic breathing

This type of breathing is based on separation of the ribs for an expansion of the thoracic cavity. This occurs when the middle zone of the lung is filled, something that is achieved once the lower part is filled thanks to diaphragmatic breathing. This kind of breathing is done very often without realizing it. In yoga it is known as medium breath .

Tips to practice it

The recommended position for this type of breathing is sitting, with the right back but without forcing and placing the hands on the ribs.

  • It expels the air thoroughly and tense the abdomen , which will help empty the lungs.
  • It inspires maintaining the tension in the abdomen, allowing the expansion of the ribs . You will see that it costs more than in diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Catch the air a moment, then all the slow and continuous air will expire. Repeat process

Health benefits

Practiced in conjunction with diaphragmatic breathing, it helps improve lung capacity and provide a relaxing effect .

3. Clavicular breathing

In this type of breathing we focus on the highest part of the lung , which is smaller in volume than the previous ones, so it captures less air. In the inspiration it seems that it raises the clavicles, hence the name. In yoga it is high breathing.

This kind of breathing can be seen in people who are suffering from an anxiety or nervous attack, having short and quick inspirations and exhalations, as they have a blockage of the diaphragm due to emotional causes. As well predominates in pregnant women , especially in recent months, when the baby occupies most of the abdominal cavity and does not allow the diaphragm to work properly.

Tips to practice it

To begin with, in a sitting posture, we crossed our arms, placing our hands on our ribs.

  • Make a deep exhalation and at the end of this contract the abdominals and press with our hands on the ribs.
  • Inspire trying to lift the clavicles , but not the shoulders. You will see that in spite of being the greater effort than in the costal breathing, the air captured is rather scarce.
  • It expels the little air that could be captured.

Health benefits

This breath alone has no benefit and is rather poor in ventilation. But it becomes important in the latest control technique that I will now talk about.

4. Complete breathing

This type of breathing, also known Yogic breathing , is the purpose of the domain of the three techniques mentioned above, and is the unification of all of them, in search of a conscious control of the breath.

Tips to practice it

This exercise can be done both lying down and sitting down, although if you are a beginner it is always better to do it lying down. The activity must be performed in a relaxed manner, breathing through the nose, and may help the pronunciation of the expression OM high.

  • Empty the lungs with a deep exhalation.
  • Slow inspiration begins by descent of the diaphragm (diaphragmatic breathing).
  • Continue to inspire air dilating the ribs (costal breathing).
  • Keep inspiring while raising the clavicles (clavicular breathing).
  • Hold the air for a moment.
  • The relaxed exhalation begins the reverse of inspiration , that is to say, making first the air from the upper part, followed by the middle and finally from the lower area of ​​the lungs.
  • Keep a few seconds without air in the lungs , and start the cycle again.

As you've seen, this kind of breathing it takes place in three phases to inspire and another three to exhale , since it is the combination of the other breathing techniques. Yoga experts recommend that you double the time exhalation takes compared to inspiration.

Health benefits

As the sum of the other types of breathing, the aforementioned benefits are maintained, that is, the lung capacity is increased, the blood oxygenation is better, the blood circulation is stimulated and the heart is toned.

It also presents other benefits such as training in self-control, and provides serenity and concentration .


*Breathing Techniques* (Yoga, Meditation, Relaxation, Stress, Cancer, Blood Pressure) Kapalbhati (January 2022).


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