Breathing Techniques

Before starting these techniques, ask your Health Care Provider if they are right for you.

Having COPD makes it harder to breathe. And when it’s hard to breathe, it’s normal to get anxious, making you feel even more short of breath. It’s also normal to hold your shoulders tense and high. Before starting, take a minute to drop your shoulders down, close your eyes, and relax.

Here are two breathing techniques that will help you get the air you need without working so hard to breathe.

Pursed-Lips Breathing


Pursed lipped breathing helps you in a number of ways. It:

  • Slows your breathing down
  • Keeps airways open longer so you can get rid of more stale, trapped air
  • Moves the air in and out without working so hard to breathe
  • You are less short of breath with activity

It just takes 4 steps to do purse-lip breathing:

  1. Inhale through your nose like you’re sniffing in for 2 whole seconds
  2. Pucker your lips like you’re getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake
  3. Breathe out very slowly. Blowing out should be twice as long as breathing in
  4. Repeat

Diaphragmatic (Abdominal/Belly) Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing is not as easy as pursed-lips breathing. It is recommended that you get instruction from a respiratory health care professional or physical therapist experienced in teaching it. This technique is best used when you’re resting, feeling anxious, and while sitting or laying down.

  1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly
  2. Inhale through your nose. Concentrate on your belly moving outward, and keep the hand on your chest still
  3. Slowly exhale
  4. Repeat

Better Breathing Tip: Stop, Reset, Continue

When you are feeling short of breath during exercise or regular activities, try these 3 tips:

  1. Stop your activity
  2. Reset by sitting down, relax your shoulders, and do pursed-lips breathing until you catch your breath
  3. Continue activity

While you’re here, look over these topics to learn tips on how to live better with your COPD.


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