This Breathing Exercise Is Better Than Coffee

Written by Claire Hannum

April 11, 2023

If you find yourself feeling groggy the moment your alarm goes off, pause before reaching for that cup of coffee.

There’s something that will energize you just as fast…something with even greater health benefits: breathwork.

Breathwork can be life-changing. The practice “gives you the ability to change your own nervous system to best handle the task at hand,” explains doctor of physical therapy and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Chad Walding.

There are different types of breathwork for every type of need. “If you’re stressed and want to calm your body down, there are down-regulating breathing exercises to do that,” says Dr. Chad. “And if you’re feeling tired with low energy, you can use up-regulating breathing exercises. This helps you face any situation and makes you a stronger, more resilient human.”

Ready to try it for yourself? Dr. Chad recorded a short video showing how to do an energizing breathwork exercise that you can do in the morning, or when you hit that afternoon slump. Plus, we share five additional breathwork benefits that you can look forward to.

A 2-Minute Breathing Exercise for Energy

It’s now time for some energizing breathwork. Follow along as Dr. Chad leads you through this short breathwork session…

  1. Breathe in through the nose for 6 seconds, letting the belly rise with your inhale.
  2. Breathe forcefully out through the mouth for 2 seconds, letting the belly fall with your exhale.
  3. Repeat 10 times.
  4. On the tenth and final breath, take a long deep inhale that fully fills your lungs. Hold this inhale for 10 seconds. Then, exhale fully and hold for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Take time to observe how incredible you feel. Don’t forget to pause and soak in those positive feelings.

If you feel tingly or dizzy during this practice, it’s likely a sign that it’s working and that your brain is getting extra oxygen!

When it comes to reaping the benefits of breathwork, consistency is key. “Like going to the gym and eating right, the best results come from consistency and proper breathing form,” says Dr. Chad.

5 Other Breathwork Benefits

Besides increasing the flow of oxygen to your brain and energizing your mind, breathwork has five other health benefits…

1. Promotes an Alkaline State

Breathwork may help shift certain parts of the body to a more alkaline state.

When your metabolism breaks down food in your body, it leaves behind a residue called metabolic waste. Based on what you eat and what your body is exposed to, that waste can have three types of pH levels: acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Experts believe that acidic metabolic waste could increase the risk of certain health issues, particularly osteoporosis (1).

Alkaline metabolic waste is believed to be more beneficial. Eating alkaline foods like fruit, legumes, veggies, and nuts can shift your body to an alkaline state (23). You can aim to do the same with breathwork! “When the body is in a more alkaline state, your body is able to function at more optimal levels,” says Dr. Chad.

Coffee has an acidic effect, so if you’re looking for energy and alkaline at the same time, breathwork is your go-to. That said, coffee’s acidic properties doesn’t mean you have to go without it. According to Dr. Chad, “just because a food or drink (like coffee) is acidic doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy and you need to avoid it. Acidic drinks and foods may make the urine more acidic but not necessarily the pH in your blood (which is what really matters). Our bodies have a built-in mechanism to tightly regulate the pH in them.”

Dr. Chad advises capping your coffee consumption at 1-2 cups per day and fitting in those caffeine fixes before noon. Coffee is great, just don’t depend on it! Breathwork is the perfect “first line of defense” when combating drowsiness.

2. Calms the Nervous System

Some breathwork exercises can calm down your autonomic nervous system (ANS) (4). The autonomic nervous system helps manage your digestion, circulatory system, brain-organ connection, and your “flight-or-flight” response.

3. Lowers Blood Pressure

Your autonomic nervous system plays a role in your circulation and blood pressure, too. Managing your ANS through breathwork can help decrease your blood pressure (5).

4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Breathwork can help you ease symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Some forms of breathwork, like diaphragmatic breathing, are recommended for managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorders (67).

5. Improved Concentration

Breathwork has been shown to improve concentration, focus, and productivity. According to one study, mindful breathing was found to enhance cognitive performance and reduce distraction (8). While another study showed breathwork to be an effective tool for improving attention and focus (7).

Numerous other studies have found that breathwork can even help improve memory—both short-term and long-term—by increasing the availability of oxygen in the brain (910).

The Bottom Line

Energizing breathwork can put a spring in your step faster and more effectively than any cup of coffee can! Breathing exercises come with health benefits like a calmer nervous system, reduced stress, and lower blood pressure. Try the exercise above first thing in the morning to start your day off on the right foot.

If you’re interested in doing more breathwork, check out these other breathing exercises with Dr. Chad.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re nervous about hyperventilation (which can happen with some forms of breathwork) talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns. “Generally, breathwork is safe for most people, especially the more calming and relaxing ‘down-regulating’ breathwork sessions,” Dr. Chad explains. “However, with the more ‘up-regulating’ sessions (like this one), it’s best to take caution and consult your doctor first if you have a history of of aneurysms, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, vision problems, osteoporosis, or any recent physical injuries or surgeries.”

Claire Hannum
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Claire Hannum

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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