Pursed lip breathing is a breathing exercise that helps you slow your breathing and inhale and exhale more air. You slowly inhale through your nose and gently exhale through pursed lips. Pursed lip breathing makes it easier to perform physical activities and reduces stress.
Pursed lip breathing is one of the simplest ways to control shortness of breath. It provides a quick and easy way to slow your breathing pace, making each breath more effective. It also helps you get more oxygen into your lungs.
There are many different types of breathing, including:
Anyone can benefit from learning how to control their breath. However, pursed lip breathing is very beneficial if you have a pulmonary (lung) condition that affects how well you breathe. These conditions include:
Pursed lip breathing:
Pursed lip breathing helps bring more oxygen into your lungs and take more carbon dioxide out of your lungs. Your airways stay open longer, which helps clear out stale air from your lungs and airways. Your breath rate should slow down as you start to relax.
Use pursed lip breathing during the difficult part of any physical activity. These activities may include:
However, it’s also a good idea to practice pursed lip breathing at rest or during stress-free moments until the act becomes natural. These situations may include:
When you breathe normally, the muscles around your airways relax, and your airways are clear. Open, relaxed airways allow air to move in and out of your lungs easily and quietly.
If you have a lung condition that affects your breathing, your muscles may constrict (tighten), your airways may become swollen, mucus may clog your airways and you may have shortness of breath or wheezing.
The following steps will help you perform pursed lip breathing:
Pursed lip breathing may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. However, with regular practice, the technique will become easier. The following tips will help pursed lip breathing become more natural for you:
Pursed lip breathing may take a little while before it feels natural. It’s a good idea to practice four to five times every day for at least five to 10 minutes. Once the breathing pattern becomes natural, you can perform pursed lip breathing only when necessary.
After pursed lip breathing, you’ll relieve your shortness of breath, have greater control over your breathing and increase your ability to relax.
The advantages of pursed lip breathing include:
There are few risks associated with pursed lip breathing. However, it’s a good idea to reach out to a healthcare provider to ensure your lungs are healthy enough to attempt pursed lip breathing.
If you feel dizzy, light-headed or tired while performing pursed lip breathing, take a break.
Pursed lip breathing also won’t treat your lung condition. It only helps temporarily alleviate some of your symptoms.
Your breathing should become more comfortable within 10 minutes. If you still have difficulty breathing after 10 minutes, call 911.
Call a healthcare provider if it becomes harder to breathe or you develop new symptoms.
Belly breathing is another name for diaphragmatic breathing. Your diaphragm is a large, dome-shaped muscle at the base of your lungs. It does most of the work when you breathe. If you have a lung condition, your diaphragm doesn’t work as well. As a result, your body uses muscles in your neck, shoulders and back to compensate. These muscles aren’t as good at moving air in and out of your lungs. Belly breathing retrains your diaphragm to do most of the breathing work again.
Pursed lip breathing is easier to perform than belly breathing. It’s a simple technique that slows your breathing pace and makes each breath more effective in bringing new oxygen into your lungs and getting stale air out. You don’t need to retrain any muscles to perform pursed lip breathing.
Yes, research suggests that pursed lip breathing is beneficial for reducing anxiety and increasing relaxation.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pursed lip breathing is an easy exercise that helps you slow your breathing and maximize the amount of oxygen that goes in and out of your lungs. It won’t cure your lung condition, but it helps control your breathing and eases anxiety. You may need to practice repeatedly throughout the day until the exercise becomes comfortable. It’s a good idea to practice when you’re not out of breath.
Take a break if you feel dizzy or tired during pursed lip breathing. If you can’t catch your breath even after pursed lip breathing, call 911.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/06/2023.
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