Pursed lip breathing is one of the simplest ways to control shortness of breath. It provides a quick and easy way to slow your pace of breathing, making each breath more effective.

What does pursed lip breathing do?

Pursed lip breathing

  • Improves ventilation
  • Releases trapped air in the lungs
  • Keeps the airways open longer and decreases the work of breathing
  • Prolongs exhalation to slow the breathing rate
  • Improves breathing patterns by moving old air out of the lungs and allowing for new air to enter the lungs
  • Relieves shortness of breath
  • Causes general relaxation

When should I use this technique?

Use this technique during the difficult part of any activity, such as bending, lifting or stair climbing.

Practice this technique 4-5 times a day at first so you can get the correct breathing pattern.

Pursed lip breathing technique

  • Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Breathe in (inhale) slowly through your nose for two counts, keeping your mouth closed. Don't take a deep breath; a normal breath will do. It may help to count to yourself: inhale, one, two.
  • Pucker or "purse" your lips as if you were going to whistle or gently flicker the flame of a candle.
  • Breathe out (exhale) slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to four. It may help to count to yourself: exhale, one, two, three, four.


Pucker or Purse


With regular practice, this technique will seem natural to you.

Pursed lip breathing reminders

  • Do not force the air out.
  • Always breathe out for longer than you breathe in.
  • Breathe slowly, easily, and relaxed ... in and out ... until you are in complete control.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/14/2018.


  • American Lung Association. COPD. (http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/) Accessed 4/11/2019.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). (http://www.cdc.gov/copd/) Accessed 4/11/2019.

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