Breathing is the single most important act we do everyday. However we don’t pay much attention to breathing since we do it automatically. There is a lot more to the breath than we know. In particular, it is a powerful way to control the mind. Scientific research is showing that breathing may just be the secret to improved health and a more peaceful and productive mind.
Breathing is the life force that sustains your body. It is vital to your well-being and affects your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Stay away from shallow breaths and consciously take long deep breaths. Having control over your breath will keep you safe from many ailments.
Most people breathe using less than one-fifth of their lungs. Breathing is our primary energy source. Most people’s diaphragm moves very little, and we seldom allow our abdomen and belly to let us breathe. Though most of us engaged in belly based abdominal breathing as babies and young children, we have gradually become upper chest breathers. The end result of our poor breathing habits is not only insufficient oxygen to our brain and the other cells of our body, but also insufficient movement in our internal organs and in the fluids upon which our health depends. Without this movement and oxygen we quickly become susceptible to illness and disease.
The importance of good posture cannot be overstated. While sitting, we tend to slouch, which compresses the diaphragm and other organs, resulting in shallow breathing. Slouching also strains muscles in the neck and back. It is helpful to sit in a chair with good back support to avoid fatigue that leads to slouching. Filling your lungs encourages you to straighten your spine and stand or sit taller.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing, is typically defined as an act of breathing deep into the lungs by flexing the diaphragm instead of breathing shallowly by flexing the rib cage. This form of breathing is marked by expansion of the stomach rather than the chest and is considered to be a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen.
Breathing deeply aids the uptake of oxygen and uses the diaphragm – the sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of our chest cavity that helps to pump air in and out of the lungs – to its full capacity.
Toxins: The lungs play an important role in eliminating toxins and waste products from the body. However, shallow breathing makes the lungs work harder to expel the waste. Due the accumulation of toxins, you can suffer from health problems like inflammation, fatigue, weight gain, muscle loss, and high blood pressure. 70% of toxins can be released from your lungs just by breathing properly.
Blood: Deep breath releases carbon dioxide and increases oxygen supply improving blood quality. The higher oxygen content of the blood, which cleanses the body and all its cells of debris and toxins, along with better circulation, better sleep, stress reduction, your body working more efficiently, and all that goes along with these naturally gives you lots more energy.
Pain: If you hold your breath you will feel the pain. By breathing deeply you can release the pain. Diaphragmatic breathing has an extremely therapeutic effect on chronic pain. It has a major influence on relaxing the muscles which tense up as a result of pain and in turn further aggravate the pain itself. Experts insist that individuals with tensed muscles and in an anxious state of mind are generally known to breathe through their chest. This type of breathing will lead to a disruption of the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are essential to be in a relaxed state.
Deep breathing releases endorphins which are the body’s natural feel good pain killers.
Anxiety: When you are afraid, stressed or nervous, your breathing pattern changes. We tend to breathe shallowly or even hold our hold our breath when we are feeling anxious. Sometimes we are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds further stress to your body, creating a vicious cycle. Breathing exercises can break this cycle. Breath slowly, purposefully and deeply to feel relaxed instantly. Controlled breathing may be the most potent tool we have to prevent our brains from keeping us in a state of stress, and preventing subsequent damage caused by high stress levels. The relaxation response is a built-in way to keep stress in check.
Headaches: One of the best time to do deep breathing for headaches is upon waking up — in order to start your day relaxed and with a positive energy. Before doing these deep breathing exercises for headaches, find a quiet and comfortable place to do these techniques. Turn off the television or play soft background music to keep you relaxed. Some of these deep breathing exercises are relatively simple and you can do them while meditating on the way to work or during breaks in your office while sitting down.
Lower blood pressure: Deep breathing has the capacity to cause a lasting drop in blood pressure. Over time, using controlled breathing to lower blood pressure and heart rate can help prevent stroke and lower risk of cerebral aneurysm.
Stimulate brain growth: Meditation that focuses on one’s breath can actually increase the size of the brain and cortical thickness. Specifically, the brain experiences growth in areas associated with attention and processing of sensory input. The effect seems to be more noticeable in older people, which is especially good news because it’s the reverse of what typically happens as we age—gray matter usually becomes thinner.
Lymphatic flow: The blood pumps oxygen and nutrients to the cells and once they absorb what they need they excrete their waste back out into the sea of lymphatic fluid that our cells constantly swim in. The lymph fluid is responsible for ridding the body of the debris the cells excrete and also dead cells and other waste. As our breathing is what moves the lymph, breathing shallowly can lead to a sluggish lymphatic system which is not detoxifying properly. Deep breathing will help get that lymph flowing properly so your body can work more efficiently.
Weight Loss: Fat is made up of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. When the oxygen we breathe reaches these fat molecules, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water. The blood then picks up the carbon dioxide – a waste product of our bodies – and returns it to the lungs to be exhaled. Therefore the more oxygen our bodies use, the more fat we will burn. Oxygen burns fat. After 10-20 minute of our breathing exercises you will receive much more oxygen that will go directly towards fat burning and other important bodily functions.
Lungs: Like any muscle in your body, when you exercise your respiratory muscles, they get stronger. Deep breathing is even beneficial to people who are susceptible to pulmonary or respiratory problems. When done daily for 10 minutes, it will help reduce respiratory difficulties like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, and even chest pain.
Daily Deep Breathing Exercise
Proper breathing should be deep, slow, rhythmic and done through the nose, not the mouth. In addition, you must try to breathe deeply into your abdomen, not just your chest.
As you inhale through your nose, allow the stomach to move outwards. This allows the diaphragm muscle to drop down so that the lungs can fully expand.
Exhale through the nose, and let the stomach move inwards. This will make the diaphragm muscle contract, which will assist the lungs in pushing the air out.
If you have sinus or respiratory issues, you can inhale through the nose and exhale through pursed lips.
Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of deep breathing three times each day, and focus on making each breath a little deeper and a little slower.
Abdominal breathing should never cause dizziness, pain or discomfort. Start your breathing practice slow and easy and increase your time as your lungs get stronger.
Doing the deep breathing exercise may feel awkward at first, as there is a tendency to pull the stomach muscles in when you inhale. With practice, this style of breathing will become more natural.
There are many breathing techniques. Pick the way that suits your lifestyle best. Make it something that is doable for you. Better to do a little every day consistently than to do a lot for 2 or 3 days and then forget all about it.
Breathing deeply for just a few minutes every day will improve our mental outlook and improve our physical health as well. Breathing is something we all have to do anyway. Learn to do it well and make it a habit so you do it unconsciously and you will be happier, healthier and even live longer.
You have the power to heal yourself, it is your birthright. And it is my mission to help you learn the many ways available to you.