Five breathing exercises to help you focus

Freddie Parker on 4 February 2022
Scrabble letters arranged to say "inhale, exhale, repeat"

Focus and concentration are hard to come by and even harder to keep hold of. Help yourself stay in the zone with some breathing exercises.

Too much time spent sitting at a desk and staring at a screen can make it feel like your focus is constantly slipping away. Stressing out about upcoming deadlines and exams can lead you to shallow breathing. Eventually, no amount of coffee, water, or fruit is going to set you straight.

Simply breathing with the right muscles can make a world of difference. Use your belly not your shoulders. Take ten minutes whenever you feel your motivation slipping to practice one of these breath exercises:

Box breathing 

This popular breathing exercise involves timing your breathing equally and has been shown to improve concentration and relieve stress. Before you start, get into the correct position. Sit upright in a comfortable, supportive chair, then you’re ready to begin. You could also rest your palms facing upwards to relax the upper body. 

Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four more seconds, and then hold for another four seconds. Repeat this a few times, or maintain it for four minutes for maximum relaxation.


Similar to box breathing, the 478 method is about controlling the pace of your breathing. Known for helping to relax the mind for sleep, this technique could also help you in your day to day. To start, touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth and relax your muscles as much as possible. Let out one final exhale through the mouth, and you’re good to go.

Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale loudly from your mouth for eight seconds. Maintain this rhythm until you feel your body relaxing.

Alternate nostril

Popular in the world of yoga, this technique slows your breathing down. It’s helpful for managing stress and anxiety. Make sure you’re sitting comfortably and exhale fully before starting. Mastering the rhythm of this exercise is a little bit tricky, but with practice, it’ll become easier. 

Close one nostril with a finger, and breathe in through the other. Swap sides and breathe out through the nostril you were previously covering. Breathe in with the same one and repeat the whole process until calm.

Mindful breathing

Mindfulness is the practice of acknowledging your mental processes and letting them cycle through without placing judgement on yourself. This approach can be applied to breathing exercises. Find a quiet place, free from distractions. The position is unimportant, all that matters is your comfort. 

Breathe deeply, listening to the sound of your breath. Focus on the bodily processes you can see or feel. Allow thoughts to pass through. This will help to naturally slow down your breathing.

Lion’s breath

Taking big, deep breaths and stretching out your face can do wonders for resetting your mood. A release of pent-up energy can jumpstart your day. This technique might seem strange to bystanders, but don’t be afraid to let it all out.

Take a long breath through your nose. Immediately, exhale at full force, mouth open, tongue out. For a full stretch of your face muscles, roll your eyes upwards while exhaling. Repeat this at least three times to feel the full effect.

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Freddie Parker
Freddie Parker on 4 February 2022