Breathing Techniques to Increase Oxygen at Home

If you are struggling with breathing difficulties or feeling short of breath, you might wonder how to get more oxygen in your blood. Certain breathing techniques not only combat the physical and mental sensations associated with shortness of breath, but when done correctly, they can actually increase your oxygen levels. Read on to learn more about how to get more oxygen with each inhale to help relieve the symptoms of your breathing difficulties.

How to Increase Blood Oxygen Level

Most people think of breathing as an automatic process, but it is possible to breathe incorrectly, resulting in insufficient oxygenation. As people with breathing difficulties know, the harder it feels to breathe, the more you struggle to catch your breath. This cycle results in anxiety, labored breathing and bad breathing habits, all of which make breathing feel even more difficult. Learning how to increase blood oxygen levels with breathing techniques can take some practice, but with a little time and repetition, you can learn how to get more oxygen with these exercises. Read through the following breathing techniques and practice them, noting how you feel before, during and after completing the exercise. Once you know how to get more oxygen in your blood, you have a powerful tool to combat shortness of breath. 

Diaphragmatic Breathing

People with breathing difficulties often get in the habit of breathing incorrectly, using their back, chest, neck, rib and shoulder muscles to breathe rather than breathing with their diaphragm. Because the diaphragm is not being used to its full capacity, it weakens, worsening the habit of breathing with the wrong muscles and leading to lower oxygen levels and less of an oxygen reserve. Diaphragmatic breathing helps correct these inefficient breathing habits by strengthening the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles and reteaching you how to move air in and out of your lungs more effectively to breathe correctly. With practice, you can learn how to get more oxygen by training your diaphragm and lungs to become better at getting rid of stale air so you can achieve full inhalations.[1] Here’s how to increase oxygen in blood this way.

  • Lie down on your back on the floor (or other firm surface) with your knees bent. Place a pillow under your knees for more support.
  • Position one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose, slowly and deeply. You should feel your stomach moving up and out, while your chest, neck, rib and shoulder muscles should remain still.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips while gently pushing inward and upward on your stomach to empty your lungs. Again, your chest, neck, rib and shoulder muscles should remain still. 
  • Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes. You may tire easily when first practicing diaphragmatic breathing, but it will get easier over time. 

Humming While Exhaling

This one might surprise you, but when you hum while exhaling, your nitric oxide production is increased, dilating your blood vessels and allowing more oxygen to be delivered to the rest of your body.[2]  While this breathing technique may not technically be how to increase oxygen in blood, you will improve your body’s overall oxygenation with this technique, which can also relieve shortness of breath and the symptoms associated with low oxygen levels.[3] Here’s how to get more oxygen to your tissues.

  • Sit up straight and steady on the edge of a bed or chair. Relax your neck and shoulders.
  • Position one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach, or both hands on the sides of your stomach.
  • Press your tongue lightly on the roof of your mouth and, with your lips closed, breathe in through your nose, pulling the air down into your stomach (instead of your chest). You should feel the hand on your stomach rise, but not the hand on your chest. If your hands are on the sides of your stomach, feel your fingers spread apart with your inhaled breath.
  • When your lungs are full, exhale through your nose, keeping your lips closed, and hum. You should feel the hand on your stomach lowering slowly.
  • Repeat the process for a full minute, inhaling through your nose, and exhaling through your nose while humming, feeling your belly rise and fall. 

Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing works by slowing your breathing down and keeping your airways open longer, allowing more air to enter your lungs and allowing your lungs to empty more efficiently. It also decreases the work of breathing, which can help you breathe more effectively as well.[1][4] Here’s how to get more oxygen in your blood.

  • Sit comfortably, relaxing your neck and shoulders.
  • With your mouth shut, slowly inhale through your nose while counting to two. Inhale normally, avoiding taking deep, full breath. Pursed lip breathing should feel easy.[4]
  • Before you exhale, purse your lips as though preparing to whistle or blow out a candle.
  • Then, exhale slowly through pursed lips while counting to four.
  • Repeat the process until you no longer feel short of breath. Practice 3-4 times a day.

Sources:

[1] “Breathing Exercises.” American Lung Association, American Lung Association , 27 May 2020, www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/breathing-exercises

[2] Lien, Peiting. “Coronavirus Recovery: Breathing Exercises.” Johns Hopkins Medicine – Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Accessed 18 Sept. 2020, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-recovery-breathing-exercises

[3] Paddock, Catharine. “Study Shows Blood Cells Need Nitric Oxide to Deliver Oxygen.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 13 Apr. 2015, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/292292

[4] Bruns, Mary, and Brian Tiep. “How to Increase Blood Oxygen Level.” Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation, Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation, Accessed 18 Sept. 2020, perf2ndwind.org/basics/decreasing-shortness-of-breath/

Sources not cited:

Shinde, Abhijit. “3 Breathing Exercises to Increase Oxygen Levels and Fight Stress.” AgingCare.com, AgingCare, 1 Sept. 2020, www.agingcare.com/articles/breathing-exercises-decrease-stress-and-raise-oxygen-levels-189489.htm.


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