The act of breathing often seems like the easiest thing we do. It’s an automatic reflex that keeps us alive, and yet we can affect how we breath to impact our mental and physical health.
Mindful, diaphragmatic breathing can improve mood, decrease stress and affect pain.
With respiratory illnesses, such as the COVID-19 coronavirus, lung function may be impacted, as the lungs now have more secretions which prevents oxygen from getting to your body’s tissues. Plus, taking deep breaths may be painful, so while it’s natural to want avoid them, this is crucial to do as you heal.
A technique to improve lung function and ease of breathing is Active Cycle Breathing.
This technique uses various breath control and coughing strategies to mobilize secretions from the central airways and get them out your body.
There are four simple steps to active cycle breathing:
- Relaxed breathing
- Deep breathing
Find a comfortable sitting position, resting against a seat back, a cushion in the small of your back.
Step 1: Relaxed Breathing
Breathe normally with as little extra effort as possible. Inhale through your nose quietly, and then exhale gently through your mouth. Pursing your lips, as if you’re blowing a dandelion, helps control the rate of your exhale. Continue until you feel breathing is relaxing. Do this 6 times.
Step 2: Deep Breathing
Actively take deeper breaths, with your hands placed over your abdomen and chest, these areas move up and widen during the inhale and deflate, narrow during the exhale.
Inhale slowly through your nose, pause at the end of the breath, and slowly sigh out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down away from your ears.
Repeat 5-8 deep breaths.
Step 3: Huff
A huff is forceful exhale without coughing. To do this, do a type of exhale as if you were trying to fog glass on a wintery day. This is done in two different ways, quickly to move secretions from the upper airways, and slowly to move secretions from your lower airways Repeat 2 times.
Step 4: Cough
If the huffs bring up some secretions, clear these from your lungs and open up space for air! Try some gentle coughs, spitting any secretions produced into a tissue. Only 1-2 coughs should be necessary each cycle. You don’t want to tire yourself out.
Repeat these 4 steps for about 10 minutes in total. Repeat this 3 times a day.
If you need more help with breathing, contact a respiratory therapist for their expert guidance.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Active Cycle of Breathing Technique (ACBT). May 2020
Troughton, J. The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. May 2015.