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Manual Breathing (Conscious Breathing)

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Manual Breathing (Conscious Breathing)

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Conscious breathing is an art or a self-healing technique that allows people to feel their breathing movements. Read the article to learn more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. A. K. Gokulvani

Published At July 26, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 21, 2023


Most people are unaware of manual or conscious breathing and barely think about it, but it is always present. Every individual breathes and survives only because of manual or conscious breathing. As per the studies, an average adult normally breathes 14 to 20 times per minute, approximately 28,800 breaths daily. Some people might consider breathing an unconscious process, but there are ways to harness breathing and become aware of the body and the current state of mind.

What Is the Meaning of Conscious Breathing?

Manual breathing or conscious breathing is used to describe the technique that allows the person to develop an awareness of his breath as it moves into and out of the body. It is done to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. Manual breathing helps achieve a calm state of mind so that the person can engage deeply with his life. The biggest advantage of conscious breathing is that it helps to deal with negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences and helps to create a positive environment. This breathing allows the person to respond with clear intention and objectivity to difficult situations.

It is a natural human tendency to hold tension and stress within the body. These tensions block a person's physical, mental, and emotional state, so manual breathing helps to live a healthy life by clearing all these blockages. As per the yoga philosophy, breathing is an important connection between the body, mind, and the outside world.

What Are the Benefits of Manual Breathing or Conscious Breathing?

According to science, manual or conscious breathing directly affects the nervous system. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion. Studies have reported that manual breathing or conscious breathing, colloquially known as pranayama, improves the following:

  • Mood.

  • Blood pressure.

  • Sleep.

  • Respiratory function.

  • Digestion and metabolism.

  • Focus, concentration, and memory.

  • Regulation of the nervous system.

  • Elimination of free radicals and body waste.

According to a recent trial, people who practiced manual or conscious breathing improved their circulatory health. In addition, they positively impacted bronchial asthma, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The other benefits of manual breathing that were noted in people are listed below:

  • Manual breathing helps improve cardiovascular health and cardiac arrhythmias.

  • It reduces symptoms of respiratory diseases in people like bronchial asthma.

  • People showed improvements in their body weight and were able to deal with pulmonary tuberculosis.

  • Manual breathing is recommended as a mood-enhancing therapy for people who wish to quit smoking and tobacco.

  • Students have benefited a lot from this breathing practice and found that they were able to overcome exam stress and anxiety.

  • Children or adults with intellectual disabilities can have a calm state of mind with manual breathing.

  • It is a ray of hope for diabetics as they have improved their quality of life after practicing manual breathing.

  • Those diagnosed with cancer who lost hope for their lives could see a reduction in cancer-related symptoms. People receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy showed an increase in their antioxidant levels.

During a trial, people were divided into study and control groups to determine the potential advantages of manual breathing. The study group received a five-week yoga program where they were taught about manual breathing. The trial results were miraculous as the study group participants showed improvements in the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep problems than the control group. It was also reported that people who were pausing to take deep breaths during times of stress experienced a calming and soothing effect on the body.

What Are the Different Types of Conscious Breathing?

Conscious breathing or manual breathing simply means becoming aware of your breath and returning to that awareness repeatedly. The patient need not undergo special training to practice manual breathing, but he might learn to practice the different types of breathing. As most of these conscious breathing techniques have originated from yoga, their names have been derived from the Sanskrit language. The different types of conscious breathing methods are listed below:

  1. Bellow Breaths or Bhastrika - It is a breathing process during which the person inhales and exhales forcefully and rapidly. The breathing movement is propelled by the diaphragm and is done to clean the airways.

  2. Anulom Vilom - It is a specific type of controlled breathing during which the person holds one nostril while inhaling and closes the other nostril while breathing out.

  3. Bhramari - Bhramari is a deep breathing exercise that aims to reduce heart rate and improve a person's respiratory rate. It calms the person and prepares him for sleep.

  4. Ujjayi - Ujjayi breathing is the most common form of pranayama that allows a person to focus on his breath and calm his mind.

  5. Kapalbharti - Kapalbharti, or breath of fire, is a form of exercise in which a person inhales, exhales, and holds his breath in a specific manner. During this exercise, the person inhales passively and exhales forcefully.

  6. Diaphragmatic Breathing - It is also known as abdominal breathing and helps strengthen the diaphragm. It is usually done by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

  7. Box Breathing - Box breathing or square breathing is a technique in which a person takes slow and deep breaths. It is a powerful stress buster and helps improve performance and concentration.

Conscious Breathing in Children:

Children can have a lot of benefits from conscious or manual breathing. The conscious breathing techniques designed for children are listed below:

  • STAR Breathing - It teaches children about breathing methods that help them deal with emotional and mental stress. It is commonly used in children with disabilities.

  • Balloon Breathing - It is a technique in which the child is asked to imagine his belly like a balloon and inhale or fill it up with air. He is then asked to deflate or exhale the air.

  • Pretzel Breathing - It is a simple method in which the child is asked to bring his arm close to the chest while inhaling and draw his arm away from the chest while exhaling.

What Happens During Conscious Breathing?

Every individual is unique and has a different breathing pattern. However, studies have reported that 70 % of people do not use their breath at full capacity. This is where conscious breathing comes into action. It helps to fully open the respiratory system and removes breathing difficulties. During conscious or manual breathing exercises, people are taught to use a diaphragmatic breathing system that massages the tissues and organs of the diaphragm. The patient’s breath is closely monitored, and he is guided about the correct method whenever he feels restricted breathing.

The breathing position of the patient might be adjusted, or additional techniques might be used like hand-on acupressure, movements, sound, and positive affirmations to make the breathing easier. Conscious breathing helps to remove these blockages and encourages the person to have a harmonious state of mind. People who practice conscious breathing regularly do not have restrictions on breathing and can feel the free flow of energy throughout their bodies. People just need to have a few sessions of this technique, and they can practice conscious breathing throughout their lives. Life opens up, and patients have an expanded state of consciousness as their breathing pattern improves.

What Are the Safety Considerations of Conscious Breathing?

Although conscious breathing is a safe procedure, some patients might experience difficulties. The following has been known about the safety consideration of manual or conscious breathing:

  • People suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder and practicing manual breathing might consider it a compulsive ritual. In such situations, people can take the support from a therapist and practice conscious breathing.

  • People having cardiac diseases must practice only those breathing exercises that do not put pressure on their heart and must avoid doing vigorous breathing exercises.

  • Those with sensitivity or low blood pressure might experience dizziness after these vigorous exercises.

  • Hence, the patient must consult his doctor to know whether he is physically fit for vigorous breathing exercises.


It is a well-established fact that breathing has a powerful impact on physiological and psychological well-being. However, some people fail to understand the link between breathing and its impact on the body’s physiology. For example, when a person is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated and increases the heart and respiratory rates. In such situations, manual or conscious breathing helps to calm a person because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Conscious or manual breathing can be practiced by people of any age group, including children. However, the patient must consult the doctor to know about the safety considerations of conscious breathing.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Conscious Breathing Normal?

A self-healing method called conscious breathing enables individuals to fully utilize their respiratory system for improved physical, emotional, and mental health. Conscious breathing in a continuous pattern is a simple, secure, and natural approach.


How Does One Train for Conscious Breathing?

Pay close attention to the in-breath and out-breath of the body. After that, one might want to work on lengthening the breath or temporarily holding it at the peak of each inhalation and exhalation. One can begin by practicing for one minute and gradually increase it to five minutes or even more.


How Is Conscious Breathing Regulated?

The cerebral cortex of the brain, specifically regions connected to voluntary motor control and decision-making, controls conscious breathing. The respiratory muscles, such as the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, get signals from the cortex telling them to change the depth and rate of the breaths when one consciously chooses to breathe differently. One may modify their breathing patterns to suit different situations and demands, such as speaking, singing, or deep relaxation, thanks to this cognitive control.


What Does Zen Breathing Mean?

Patients experience some airflow resistance as they slowly exhale from slightly pursed lips after inhaling through their noses. The duration of exhale is thus two to three times that of inhalation. When breathing in, some people find it beneficial to count to two. When expelling, they might count to four or six.


Is Breathing Automatic or Manual?

Most of the time, breathing is autonomic and is controlled by the respiratory center at the base of the brain. Sleep and typically even unconsciousness do not prevent breathing from continuing. Additionally, breathing can be controlled when desired, such as during singing, speaking, or voluntarily holding one's breath.


What Advantages Do Manual Breathing Techniques Offer?

A recent experiment found that manual or mindful breathing exercises helped people's circulatory health. They also had a favorable effect on cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and bronchial asthma.


What Breathing Technique Is the Healthiest?

Keep the mouth shut and swiftly inhale via the nose with short, sharp breaths. Swiftly exhale as well. For about ten seconds, try it. Breathe normally for 15–30 seconds throughout this break.


How Safe Are Breathing Methods?

Breathing methods are completely risk-free activities that practically everyone can perform. It has been shown scientifically to have many benefits to both physical and mental wellness, and doctors have even suggested using it to assist patients in breathing more easily.


How Can One Breathe Better Without Oxygen?

The following breathing methods can be adapted:
- Sit up straight and place one hand on the stomach and the other hand on the chest.
- Breathe in through the nose slowly and deeply, feeling the rise and fall of the stomach with each deep, diaphragmatic breath.
- Breathe out slowly through the mouth.
- For up to 15 minutes, repeat at least six times per minute.


How Can One Manually Check Their Breathing?

Individuals can relax and sit down. The ideal position for measuring respiratory rate is a chair or bed that has a back. Count the number of times the chest or abdomen rises in a minute to determine the breathing rate. Note this number down.


Is Diaphragmatic Breathing Beneficial or Harmful?

The body can benefit from diaphragmatic breathing in a number of ways, among them: 
- It can help one to relax. 
- Enhancing muscle performance while exercising and avoiding tension.
- Increasing the blood's oxygen content.


What Are the Other Names of Diaphragm Breathing?

One consciously breathes deeply while engaging in diaphragmatic breathing. Individuals do not fully utilize the lungs when they breathe regularly. One may maximize lung efficiency by using their lungs to their fullest extent with diaphragmatic breathing. 
Other names for diaphragmatic breathing include:
- Abdominal breathing
- Belly breathing


What Consequences Can Diaphragm Breathing Cause?

Diaphragmatic breathing is generally useful and safe, when done correctly. But poor diaphragmatic breathing can result in:
- Hyperventilation: Excessively deep breaths may result in fast breathing, which can induce symptoms including tingling and dizziness.
- Muscle Strain: Overusing or forcing the diaphragm without adequate practice can cause pain or tiredness in the muscles.
- Gastrointestinal Discomfort: Very deep breathing can exert strain on the abdominal organs and perhaps cause discomfort, especially in people who already have digestive problems.


What Is the Correct Diaphragmatic Breathing Method?

When using diaphragmatic breathing, the stomach moves with each breath, expanding during inhalation and contracting with exhalation rather than the chest. It helps to deliberately focus on each breath to divert attention and calm the mind.


When Should One Use Diaphragmatic Breathing?

GI (Gastrointestinal) patients are taught the simple method of diaphragmatic breathing, often known as deep breathing or belly breathing, to assist them in managing stress brought on by GI disorders. It is useful to urge the body to relax by concentrating on the breath.
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Dr. A. K. Gokulvani
Dr. A. K. Gokulvani



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