Proper Breathing – Vital to Health, Well-Being
Let’s face it; breathing is essential to life. We take millions of breaths per year, but most fail to understand its potency. Proper breathing is something many people don’t know how to do or don’t practice very often.
- The average person takes 8,409,600 a year.
Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the relaxation response that makes one feel relaxed. Unfortunately, most people live stressful lives accompanied by shallow breathing; stress is at the core of many diseases.
Research conducted has shown there are several benefits of practicing simple deep breathing.
- Our thoughts can influence our thinking and physiology, and ideas can be affected by our breath.
- Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness is a valuable tool to help you restore balance in your body and mind.
- Shallow breathing means your body does not get the oxygen it needs, making your muscles constrict.
You can feel this tightening when stressed or tense. When you feel anxious or stressed, breathe deeply, and you can feel the peace coming in and the body releasing the tension as you breathe in and out.
- Our bodies release up to 70% of toxins through breathing.
Carbon dioxide is natural toxic waste from the body’s metabolic processes and has to be released consistently and regularly. It gets transferred through the blood to the lungs. The lungs, however, are comprised of shallow breathing, and other detoxifying systems have to work harder to expel the waste. This overload can make the body weak and consequently lead to illness.
- Deep breathing exercises help in releasing the toxins from the body, avoiding weakness.
The lymphatic system is crucial in the body. However, many people know more about the circulatory system and not the lymphatic system. It might come as a surprise, but you have twice the amount of lymphatic fluid as you have blood.
- While the circulatory system relies on the heart to pump it, the lymphatic system relies on breathing to keep it active.
Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells while they excrete waste into the lymphatic fluid. The lymph fluid is responsible for ridding the debris and dead cells. Therefore, shallow breathing can lead to having a sluggish lymphatic system that does not detoxify properly.
- With breathing exercises, the lymph flows appropriately, and the body cells work efficiently.
Deep breathing during exercises expands the lungs and gets them working efficiently. It means more oxygen gets into the lungs and gets absorbed into the bloodstream. With effective breathing, the heart can efficiently deliver enough oxygen to the body cells. It eases the pressure needed from the heart to pump blood throughout the body. It not only improves circulation, but the heart also gets a break. Doing breathing exercises is a way to use this powerful tool to improve health and overall well-being.
- Breathing exercises increase the oxygen supply in our body, improving the nervous system that interacts with all the body parts, improving overall health.
There are many other benefits of breathing exercises, such as lowering blood pressure and getting better sleep, that you never get to experience.
- One of the most effective and efficient methods of self-management is breath control.
- Breath control can stop the mind’s tendency to worry and wonder. It can also help settle and relieve periods of anxiety, panic, emotional instability, and much more.
When someone gets upset, you often hear the expression “take a deep breath.” Deep inhaling and exhaling can quickly calm a person down.
Taking deep breaths works because there’s a direct relationship between breathing patterns and someone’s emotional condition. So it is an excellent example of what breath control can accomplish.
Although it seems obvious to breathe through your nose, you would be surprised how often people breathe through your mouth. Just like feeling anxious leads to shallow breathing, we tend to breathe rapidly through our mouths during times of extreme stress and fear.
Breathing through the nose provides defense mechanisms such as mucous membranes and tiny hairs that prevent impurities from entering your body.
- Certain glands deep within your nose kill bacteria that may have slipped past your nose’s initial defenses. Nose breathing also helps minimize the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale, facilitates oxygen release from red blood cells, and helps keep your blood’s pH level adequately balanced.
- The truth is breathing has a profound effect on both our mental and physical health.
- Research suggests breathing exercises and proper breathing techniques can improve our overall health and well-being.
As far as bodily functions are concerned, breathing is unique. Unlike blood flow through the body, we can stop breathing by holding our breath and cutting off our oxygen supply. Hold your breath long enough, and you’ll pass out, at which point your body takes over and begins breathing without your conscious permission.
Humans can be aware of this bodily function and control it means we can adapt breathing techniques and breathing exercises that will benefit our bodies and minds.
- There is an entire science dedicated to breathing. It’s called Pranayama.
One of the five principles of Yoga is Pranayama, breath control. Prana means breath, life-force. Yama means control.
So Pranayama means breath control. By controlling the breath, the intrinsic life force helps someone grow spiritually and as a discipline. Some of the exercises in this article are forms of Pranayama in the Yoga tradition.
- In the ancient Sanskrit language, breath means “wind” or “spirit.”
Much of yoga practices and philosophy have to do with how to breathe. The word Yoga means “union,” union of mind, body, and spirit. Breathing is a body-centered physical activity, so bringing attention to the breath brings union of mind with the body.
- Mindful breathing is a powerful technique for slowing down the thinking mind.
Besides the beneficial aspect of proper breathing, yoga teaches that you gain mindfulness by focusing on breathing. Breathing is always something that is happening in the present, here and now. So concentrating on the breath helps someone be here now, in the present moment.
Here are several simple breathing exercises and techniques.
Also called abdominal or belly, diaphragmatic breathing is expanding the abdomen instead of your chest while concentrating. Deliberately inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly seems to reset your autonomic nervous system by increasing theta wave amplitude in the brain. Also, the elevation of parasympathetic activity via abdominal breathing enhances mental alertness and decreases fatigue.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep belly, comes with a myriad of physical benefits. They are deliberate, deep breaths that fill the stomach with air. Research shows regular deep breathing can improve focus by increasing blood flow to the brain and releasing growth hormone, which slows aging and reduces blood pressure and blood sugar. Finally, it helps facilitate the production of serotonin, which improves sleep. Do diaphragmatic breathing in five to 10-minute intervals in either a sitting or lying position.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a powerful way to help deal with the stressful situation of an issue. Often suggested to help people sleep, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is simple and easy to do.
- In any position, relax and preferably close your eyes
- Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose, to a count of 4; 1-2-3-4
- Hold that breath in for a count of 7; 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
- Exhale slowly and gradually to a count of 8; 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Repeat this pattern four times to complete the exercise. Do 4-7-8 twice per day.
One of the essential yoga practices, alternate nostril breathing, is designed to balance the brain’s energy on the left and right sides. The practice uses the hand’s fingers to form a “bridge.” The two fingers open and close the left and right nostrils.
- Use the right hand, and place the middle finger squarely on your forehead
- Use the ring finger to close the left nostril, hold the left nostril shut, inhale through the right nostril.
- Using the thumb, close the right nostril and exhale out through the left nostril.
- Keep the right nostril shut; inhale through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril (with ring finger), and exhale out the right nostril
- Keeping the left nostril shut, inhale through the right nostril
- Close the right nostril (with the thumb) and exhale out the left
Relaxation breathing can go a long way toward alleviating stress and combating anxiety. The focused intake of oxygen reduces adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones in the body released in times of emotional and physical duress.
This exercise is a great way to shake off any stiffness from a night’s sleep and prepare your body for the day ahead. With your knees slightly bent, in a standing position, bend forward at the waist and let your arms hang toward the floor. Take a deep, slow breath from this position and then exhale as you roll your spine back to a standing position.
Meditative breathing is a vital part of yoga. It is gaining momentum in the field of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. A University of Washington study found that patients struggling with addiction issues were less likely to relapse in the long term when incorporating mindful meditation techniques in their treatment regimen.
Practice mindful meditation in a quiet space. In a sitting position, bring your focus to your body and breath. It’s okay if the mind wanders, but try to get it back to your body and breath gently. Beginners should begin with shorter sessions, in the five to 10-minute ranges, but with practice, 15 to 20 minutes will be no problem at all.
Bellow breathing, also known as stimulating breath and breath of fire, is a yogic technique. It takes some time and effort to learn and master. However, it has far-reaching potential for positive results. It rapidly cycles inhalation and exhalation. When done correctly, a person’s energy and awareness levels significantly increase.
Inhale and exhale rapidly and evenly through the nose. Try and average 2-3 breath cycles per second with the mouth closed at all times. Start with short durations of about 15 seconds and gradually increase the time by 5 seconds up to 1 minute.
The practice of deep breathing provides the body and brain with sufficient amounts of oxygen. It promotes oxytocin, prolactin, and dopamine release, three feel-good hormones that also help lower cortisol. Breathing deeply and mindfully, you are aware of the breath rather than just letting the limbic system do it for you. It will also improve mental focus, help reduce blood pressure and relieve symptoms of depression.
Pursed lip breathing exercises create resistance on the exhalation breath. But, unfortunately, it also slows down the pace and rhythm of your breathing cycle.
- In a relaxed position
- Inhale through your nose a count of 4; 1-2-3-4
- Bring the top lip down close to the lower lip, like you were going to “whistle.”
- Exhale slowly out the small space between your lips
- Maintain a consistent rate of exhalation without forcing it
- Be very mindful as the air comes in and goes out of your body.
Practice pursed-lip breathing for 5 minutes. The resistance caused by the minor exit port helps stimulate and relax the throat, mind, and nervous system.
Ujjayi breath exercises are a yoga technique. Translated as victory breath”, it is also known as ocean breathing or hissing breath.
Breath counting is an effortless way to practice mindfulness. Your mind concentrates on nothing else by paying full attention to the number of breaths you are taking. As a result, it can be a potent tool in developing the discipline necessary to gain self-mastery.
On inhaling, a human being’s heart rate naturally increases. But, conversely, it decreases during exhalation.
There is a factor known as the Heart Rate Variation. It is the naturally occurring variation in the heart rate that happens during the breathing cycle.
Controlled by the oldest part of the brain called the limbic system, oxygen intake and carbon dioxide expulsion are essential for all physiological processes.
- The body’s biggest consumer of oxygen is the brain. It requires about 25 percent of the oxygen existing in the body at any given moment.
Without it, for 10 seconds or less, you will start feeling lightheaded, and your heart rate increases significantly as your body realizes something is very wrong. Most people can hold their breath for about a minute before the limbic system forces them to start breathing again.
When you feel powerfully negative emotions such as stress, anger, or fear, your diaphragm (the muscle supporting the lower portion of your lungs) tightens and restricts the amount of oxygen to this part of the lungs. Since most of the oxygen released into your body comes from the lower half of the lungs, your brain and body fail to receive the oxygen necessary for optimal physical and mental health.
When you chronically deprive yourself of oxygen due to poor breathing practices, the stress hormone cortisol levels rise while neurons struggle to maintain regular signaling activity in the brain. Consequently, you may suffer health issues ranging from hypertension and reduced immune system functioning to biochemical imbalances in the brain that cause depression and anxiety.