Workplace burnout and stress are at an all-time high. As employees navigate remote work and the new normal, feelings of discontent at work are starting to rise. And in turn, productivity is plummeting. Did you know that breathing techniques can help to improve your productivity?

For those feeling stressed in the office, mindful breathing techniques can do more for you than you know. We’ve put together this guide to mindful breathing that you can do at your desk during your workday to help quell anxious or stressed feelings. Being in the right state and managing your emotions is key to productivity.

How do breathing and mindfulness boost productivity?

There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness at work through yoga or breathing. The top benefit? Reduced amounts of stress at work. In a day filled with deadlines, projects, phone calls, or too many tasks on your plate, mindfulness can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. 

In turn, less stress means more work can be completed. It’s a win-win. You won’t feel quite so overwhelmed and you’ll also be able to get more work done, which will further decrease stressed feelings. 

Breathing and mindfulness techniques have also been shown to improve posture and decrease muscle tension, meaning you’ll feel overall better during the workday. And without muscle pain, tension, or backaches, you can feel more energetic and confident — and produce better work. 

What are helpful desk breathing techniques? 

These breathing techniques can help calm you down, inspire you, motivate you, or make you feel more grounded during the workday. So next time you start to feel stressed out, put on comfortable clothes and take a moment to focus on your breath.


Box Breathing

Box breathing is a technique used by everyone from Navy Seals to nurses. In this method, you calm yourself down by taking long, slow breaths, holding, exhaling, holding, then repeating. This is also a good breathing technique to use if you have a lung disease like COPD. 

Try this method:

  • Step 1: Sit in your desk chair with your arms relaxed and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Step 2: Slowly breathe in for four seconds. 
  • Step 3: Hold for four seconds. 
  • Step 4: Exhale slowly for four seconds. 
  • Step 5: Hold for four seconds.
  • Step 6: Repeat steps two through five. 

Sitali Breathing

When you were a kid, did you ever run around the playground making a “taco” with your tongue? If so, you’re already halfway to sitali breathing! In this technique, you curl the sides of your tongue and breathe through it to cool your body down. If you’re feeling anxious before a presentation or after a confrontation at work, this breathing technique can help. 

Try this method: 

  • Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position. 
  • Step 2: Warm up by taking a few long, normal breaths. 
  • Step 3: Stick out your tongue and curl the sides. 
  • Step 4: Inhale through the tongue and focus on the feeling of the cool air. 
  • Step 5: Relax the tongue back inside of the mouth. 
  • Step 6: Breathe out through your nose. 
  • Step 7: Repeat steps 3 through 6. 

Lion’s Breath

Those working in the business world may have compared themselves to a lion in the past. And if you have: you can even start to breathe like one! The lion’s breath technique is said to alleviate stress and improve lung health. In addition to helping with workplace anxiety, lion’s breath can be a good breathing practice for those with COPD or asthma. 

Try this method: 

  • Step 1: ​​Sit in a comfortable position. 
  • Step 2: Depending on how you’re sitting, rest your hands on your knees or on the floor and spread your fingers wide. 
  • Step 3: Inhale through your nose for four seconds.
  • Step 4: Open your mouth and stick out your tongue. 
  • Step 5: Exhale forcefully, making a “ha” sound if you feel comfortable. 
  • Step 6: Breathe normally for a few breaths, then repeat steps three through five.  

4-7-8 Technique

Dr. Andrew Weil, who created this breathing technique, referred to it as a tranquilizer for the nervous system because of its ability to reduce stress and promote relaxation. And while some types of tranquilizers most likely aren’t allowed at work — this one definitely will be. So if you’re feeling nervous before a presentation or are dealing with personal life issues while at work, this breathing technique can help calm you down. 

Try this method: 

  • Step 1: Sit with your back straight.
  • Step 2: Inhale slowly for four seconds.
  • Step 3: Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  • Step 4: Purse your lips and make a “whoosh” sound as you exhale for eight seconds. 
  • Step 5: Repeat steps two through four three to four more times.

Alternate Nostril Breathing 

In yoga practice, alternate nostril breathing is called “nadi shodhana pranayama,” which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique.” That means that if you’re experiencing bad energy from a conflict, stress or a negative interaction with a coworker, this breathing technique can help clear your mind and keep you moving forward. 

 Try this method: 

  • Step 1: Sit comfortably, crossing your legs if you can.
  • Step 2: Place your left hand on your left knee and raise your right hand to your noise.
  • Step 3: Exhale completely.
  • Step 4: Use your right thumb to stop your right nostril. 
  • Step 5: Inhale through your left nostril. 
  • Step 6: Remove your thumb from your right nostril, then stop your left nostril with your left thumb. 
  • Step 7: Exhale through your right nostril. 
  • Step 8: Inhale through your right nostril. 
  • Step 9: Remove your thumb from your left nostril, then stop your right nostril with your right thumb. 
  • Step 10: Repeat steps five through nine for a few minutes. 

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is an easy and accessible breathing technique, meaning you can do it whenever you have a few spare seconds of time. That means this technique is good for anyone who is feeling stressed or nervous but doesn’t have a lot of time on their hands to focus on their breathing. 

Try this method: 

  • Step 1: Sit down or lie flat in a comfortable position.
  • Step 2: Place one hand on your belly below your ribcage and the other hand on your chest. 
  • Step 3: Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel your belly push your hand out, taking care not to move your chest.
  • Step 4: Purse your lips and exhale while making a “whoosh” sound, using your hand to gently push your belly in. 
  • Step 5: Repeat steps three and four up to 10 times. 

For more information on mindful breathing during the workday, check out the following infographic. 

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