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Our “One Good Thing” post this month brings you simple breathing exercises and techniques you can use, any time, any place, to recover breathing more easily and reduce the frequency and duration of a cough, whether it’s a lingering symptom from a cold, upper respiratory tract infection, or any other source.

Techniques for Calming a Cough

Have you ever had a cold or upper respiratory tract infection, and you’re feeling 90% better except for an ongoing cough or tickle in your throat that just won’t go away and sometimes leads to a big coughing fit?  If so, you are not alone…..this is a pretty common lingering symptom.

Here are a couple of techniques you can use at the first signal that a cough is coming on.  You can also do these prior to any activity that typically triggers an episode or even proactively throughout the day to prevent them in the first place.

Finally, these techniques can work for a broader range of cough triggers, such athsma, COPD and neurogenic cough.

Open Your Throat and Vocal Cords with the Sniff-Breath Technique

This technique opens your vocal cords on the inhale, and keeps your throat open as you exhale, and calms down the cough reflex.

  1. Check that you can breathe through your nose. If not, blow your nose as needed before you begin.
  2. Take 3 swift, deep, even sniffs through your nose to fill your lungs completely. (Some of you might know this as a three-chamber inhalation from yoga.)
  3. Exhale as completely as possible with a “shhhhhhhh” sound through pursed lips.
  4. Repeat a series of 5 rounds of inhalation/exhalation.

Make Breathing Easier with Diaphragmatic Breathing and Taking a Moment

Shallow breathing often leads to “air hunger,” and an accompanying throat, neck and shoulder tightness.  Breathing deeply, fully, slowly can bring ease, and has the added benefit of calming the nervous system overall.

  1. Sit or lie quietly in a comfortable position.
  2. ……Take a moment to lengthen your spine.
  3. Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
  4. ……Take a moment to observe the steady, subtle movement of your hands as your breath flows in and out.
  5. Gradually deepen your breath, both inhale and exhale, breathing through your nose if possible.
  6. …….Take a moment to notice the hand on your belly gently rising more with each inhale, settle more deeply with each exhale.
  7. Avoid moving your shoulders and balance your inhales and exhales – same length, same volume, same velocity. Long, slow, steady, relaxed, rhythmic breathing.
  8. ……Take a moment to notice how you grow more and more comfortable with low, deep diaphragmatic breathing.
  9. Maintain this mindful, deep breathing for 5-10 minutes.

We hope these techniques help you to recover breathing more easily and reduce the frequency and duration of a cough.


These techniques are described in this article to address Vocal Chord Dysfunction, but have a broader application as noted above.