4 Different Types of Breathwork For Hectic Schedules


Have you ever noticed that your breathing changes when you’re stressed? Suddenly you take short, quick breaths, your heart rate speeds up, and you go into fight or flight mode. Your brain has learned that how you breathe is how you feel.

Noticing how you’re breathing is one of the most basic forms of self-care you can do and any type of breathwork is effective.

It seems too simple to say that changing your breathing can be helpful, but science agrees that breathing therapy can help you find peace in a hectic schedule. 

Explore these 4 popular types of breathwork. They’re easy to fit into your schedule and they’ll help you manage stress, reduce anxiety, and promote overall relaxation.

What is Breathing Therapy?

Breathing therapy, or breathwork, is a practice that focuses on conscious control of your breath to improve mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It’s an ancient practice with roots in various traditions, finally gaining the recognition that it deserves for its effectiveness in modern mental health practices.

There are many different types of breathwork. The most popular are: diaphragmatic, box breathing, alternative nostril, and 4-7-8 breathing.

Benefits of Breathwork

Any type of breathwork has numerous benefits rooted in science. Here are just some examples: 

  • Reduced physiological stress and anxiety
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved cardiovascular function
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Enhanced emotional regulation
  • Boosted immune system
  • Improved sleep cycle
  • Cultivation of mindfulness

Regulating the Nervous System through Breath

Our nervous system manages the communication between our brain and the body.

It’s divided into two branches: 

1) The Sympathetic Nervous System: responsible for the fight-or-flight response

2) The Parasympathetic Nervous System: responsible for the rest-and-digest response 

In an ideal world, both of these branches work together for healthy functioning. But in between life’s demands, stress can tilt this balance. This is where the power of breath comes into play. 

Your breathing is like a remote control of your nervous system. Changing how you breathe directly influences how your nervous system responds — deep breaths for calm, quick breaths for alertness.

Deep, intentional breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and counteracting the stress response. This calms the mind and positively impacts various bodily functions (see the list below), such as slowing down the heart rate, helping with digestion, easing muscle tension, and promoting a sense of calm.

By purposely changing how we breathe, we can change our current reality. 

4 Types of Breathwork Explained Step by Step

Yes, you breathe every day without thinking about it. But to harness the power of your breath, you’ll want to try these different types of breathwork. Any type of breath therapy is useful, the important thing is to find one that you can fit into your schedule.

No 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

This type of breathwork focuses on deep belly breathing to engage the diaphragm fully.

  1. Find a Comfortable Position
  • Sit or lie down.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.

2. Inhale Slowly Through Your Nose

  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose.
  • Focus on filling your lungs from the bottom up, allowing your abdomen to expand.

3. Feel Your Diaphragm Engage

  • Pay attention to the hand on your abdomen rising as your diaphragm engages and your lungs fill with air.
  • Try to keep the hand on your chest relatively still, minimizing chest movement.

4. Exhale Slowly Through Your Mouth

  • Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth.
  • Feel your abdomen contract as you expel the air.

5. Repeat and Maintain a Rhythm

  • Continue the slow, deep breathing pattern.
  • Aim for a smooth, rhythmic cycle of inhalation and exhalation.

No 2: Box Breathing

This type of breathwork involves inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding the breath in equal counts, promoting balance and focus. (Usually 4 seconds each)

1. Inhale (4 seconds)

  • Start by taking a slow and deep breath in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
  • Focus on filling your lungs and expanding your diaphragm.

2. Hold (4 seconds)

  • Once you’ve inhaled, hold your breath for a count of four seconds.
  • Keep your lungs filled and maintain a sense of stillness during this pause.

3. Exhale (4 seconds)

  • Begin to exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for a count of four seconds.
  • Empty your lungs of air while maintaining a controlled and steady breath.

4. Hold (4 seconds)

  • After exhaling, hold your breath again for another count of four seconds.
  • Embrace the brief pause before starting the next inhalation.

5. Repeat the Cycle

  • Continue the box breathing cycle by starting the next inhalation, holding, exhaling, and holding, each for a count of four seconds.

No 3: Alternate Nostril Breathing 

This type of breath work is a yogic practice that balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain, fostering mental clarity.

1. Use Your Right Thumb and Ring Finger:

  • Bring your right hand to your face. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril and your ring finger to close off your left nostril.

2. Close Right Nostril (Inhale)

  • Begin by closing your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.

3. Close Left Nostril (Exhale)

  • After inhaling, close your left nostril with your ring finger.
  • Release your right nostril and exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril.

4. Inhale through Right Nostril

  • Keep your left nostril closed and inhale slowly and deeply through your right nostril.

5. Close Right Nostril (Exhale)

  • After inhaling, close your right nostril with your thumb.
  • Release your left nostril and exhale slowly and completely through the left nostril.

6. Repeat the Cycle

  • Continue this cycle, alternating between inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other.
  • Each inhalation and exhalation should be done slowly and with awareness.

No 4: 4-7-8 Breathing 

This type of breath therapy has you inhale for a count of 4, hold for 7, and exhale for 8; used for promoting relaxation and calming techniques.

1. Place the Tip of Your Tongue

  • Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth. Keep your tongue in this position throughout the exercise.

2. Exhale Completely

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.

3. Inhale Quietly Through Your Nose (Count of 4)

  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Focus on filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm.

4. Hold Your Breath (Count of 7)

  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Maintain a relaxed state without creating tension in your body.

5. Exhale Completely Through Your Mouth (Count of 8)

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making the whooshing sound again, to a count of eight.
  • Ensure that the exhalation is gentle and controlled.

6. Complete One Breath Cycle

  • This completes one breath cycle. Now, inhale again and repeat the cycle for three more breaths.

7. Practice Regularly

  • Initially, practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique for four breath cycles. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the number of breath cycles.

Note: If you feel lightheaded when you first start practicing, you may need to adjust the counts to a comfortable pace. Avoid overexerting yourself.

How To Make Breathwork A Habit

If you’re dealing with high levels of stress, overwhelm, or anxiety, there are several types of breathing techniques that may help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Here are some general recommendations:

  • Begin with just 5 minutes/day, and increase your time as it becomes easier and more comfortable.
  • If 5 minutes feels too long, start with just 2 minutes. The important thing is consistency, not intensity.
  • Practice multiple times a day. Schedule set times or practice conscious breathing as you feel the need.

Self-Care You Can Actually Do

You’ve read Instagram posts and articles talking about the importance of self-care but most of the examples they give do little to prevent burnout. Different types of breathwork are just part of the puzzle that helps you cope with your child’s diagnosis, find time to truly take care of yourself, and confidently control your family schedule. Get our guide to burnout here and discover that you do have the time to feel good. 


Zaccaro et al (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci.

Tavoian and Craighead (2023) . Deep breathing exercise at work: Potential applications and impact. Front. Physiol.

Fincham et al (2023). Effect of breathwork on stress and mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Scientific Reports.