It’s hard to imagine better times to learn more about breathing than the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about breathing:

  1. Contrary to popular belief, taking a deep breath will make you more alert, instead of calming you down. When you inhale in your heart beats slightly faster. The opposite happens when you exhale.

  2. Mouth breathing at an early age can cause crooked teeth and facial deformities.

  3. The nasal cavity occupies a space of a billiard ball in your skull. It is designed to moisturize, warm, and disinfects the air. Besides that, when you breathe in, sinuses release nitric oxide, which inhibits oxygen consumption.

If any of these facts made you curious, you’d enjoy diving into the “Rabbit hole” section. I must warn you materials presented in Rabit Hole are very potent and can make you addicted to better breathing.

Once you get out of the Rabbit Hole, you might want to practice a couple of breathing techniques. “Breathing techniques cheat sheet” will always be there for your service.

Rabbit hole

Let’s warm up by watching two short videos posted by Dr. Andrew D. Huberman, a Stanford neuroscientist. Among other things, he teaches neuroscience on Instagram. Occasionally he posts about breathing. In this post he explains our heart beats faster when we inhale and slower when we exhale.

Now let me introduce two modern breathing giants.

First is James Nestor. I accidentally discovered James on Joe Rogan’s podcast. After watching the podcast, I bought Jame’s book called “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” by James Nestor.

The second is Patrick McKeown. Start with his Ted Talk

And here James meets Patrick, and they have a wonderful conversation.

Breathing techniques cheat sheet

Breathing efficiency

Good breathing efficiency is associated with multiple health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, lower anxiety, better sleep, higher heart rate variability, and many others.

  1. Prepare a stopwatch.
  2. Sit down, relax, breathe normally for 5 minutes .
  3. Inhale through the nose.
  4. Exhale through the nose.
  5. Pinch both nostrils and start the stopwatch.
  6. The moment your feel distinct desire to breathe, stop the timer and breathe normally.

If less than 25 seconds, you are breathing suboptimally. It means you are getting breathless more often than not.

The breathing techniques below will improve your breathing efficiency.

Warning: while practicing these techniques, you might feel a bit of air hunger and light panic. This is how your body reacts to increased levels of CO2. If you stay calm and focus through panic, your body will learn how to extract oxygen from red blood cells (there should be plenty available).

If you have anxiety problems, do these exercises with extra care.

Don’t do them while your a driving or operating machinery.

Box breathing

[Used] ( by navy seals to stay calm in stressful situations

  1. Inhale - 4 (for a count of four).
  2. Hold - 4.
  3. Exhale - 4.
  4. Hold - 4.
  5. Repeat 10-20 times.

Box breathing - extended exhalation

This one is my favorite. Extended exhalation calms me down. I use is while sauna or when I can’t sleep. This [this app] ( helps me to count.

  1. Inhale - 4.
  2. Hold - 4.
  3. Exhale - 6.
  4. Hold - 2.

Decongest the nose

My nose is often congested. To my surprise, I found that this technique decongests my nose after 3-4 cycles.

  1. Seat up straight.
  2. Pinch both nostrils.
  3. Exhale through the mouth.
  4. Shake your head up and down or side to side.
  5. When you feel an air hunger, take a slow and controlled breath in through the nose.
  6. If the nose is still congested, breathe softly through the mouth.
  7. Wait 30 seconds to a minute between the cycles. Breathe normally.
  8. Repeat 5-6 times.


This technique promises a quick relaxation. The relaxation part didn’t work for me, but I found that it also decongests my nose, and it doesn’t look weird compared to the “decongest the nose technique.” Therefore I can use it when in public places.

  1. Inhale - 4.
  2. Hold - 7.
  3. Exhale through the mouth - 8. Repeat: 3-4 times.

Here Dr. Weil explains how to practice 4-7-8 breathing technique.

I didn’t try any of the breathing techniques below, but I’ll at some point. I left them here for a reference in case I want to try them in the future.

Alternate nostril breathing

  1. Use the right hand.
  2. Thumb on the right nostril.
  3. Index finger on the left nostril.
  4. Inhale through the left.
  5. Hold both nostrils (1-2 second).
  6. Exhale through right.
  7. Hold - close both nostrils (1-2 second).
  8. Inhale through right. Hold.
  9. Exhale, left, hold. Repeat for 10-15 cycles.

Breathing coordination

Engages diaphragm and increases respiratory efficiency. Don’t force diaphragm contraction.

  1. Seat up straight.
  2. Chin is perpendicular to the body.
  3. Take a gentle breath to the nose.
  4. At the top of the breath, begin to count from 1 to 10, fast. At some point, you’ll switch to whisper. Continue until your lungs are empty. Repeat 10 times.

Once comfortable with the sitting position, practice it while walking or jogging.

Happy breathing.