Breathing is something we take for granted, we do it automatically every minute of every day of our lives. It is the most important of all of our bodily functions, as all other functions are dependent upon it. But we underestimate the importance of our quality of breathing. Correct habits of breathing are essential for our vitality, immunity to disease and overall ease in navigating life. But how many of us truly use the breath to its fullest potential through deep and controlled breathing.
Deep breathing or “completing the breath” at both ends, the inhale and the exhale is a technique that slows down the way we breathe. As we gain insight on and practice what it means to take fuller and more meaningful inhalations and exhalations, the essential principle to overall health and vitality becomes embodied. (Instructional video included at the bottom of this blog.)
It is said the average human takes around 15-20 breaths per minute, yet as we study old texts from medicine and yoga we discover that back then the average was said to be 8-10 breaths. This shows quite a raise in the frequency of breathing, and is related to the way humans rush around and the rise of (mental) stresses. We breathe more shallowly in our modern day society. Humans in their normal state don’t need instruction regarding how to breathe properly. Because of social developments, the rise of civilization and modern day culture we have contracted improper habits of posture, movement and breathing. People in isolated tribes still breathe naturally, free from being tainted by the habits of the ‘civilized’ man. Our physical, mental and emotional health hinges heavily upon these correct breathing patterns which are our nature, which are our right…
So why not take the time to slow-down and discover the health benefits that the regular practice of deep breathing can unfold?!
Here are some ways that Deep Breathing positively influences our bodies and minds.
- Stronger and Healthier Hearts and Circulatory Systems
Taking in more oxygen enables the heart and other vital organs to function more efficiently. Deep breathing can bring many of the same benefits of aerobic exercise because they both bring an increased oxygen supply. When there is an increase of oxygen, circulation improves, common ailments are weakened, and we have an increase of energy leaving us feeling more awake and alive.
- Less Stress
Have you ever heard that when stressed or before you react to take some deep breaths? Why? Because it really works to calm the mind and rid you of worries and anxiety! Stress and fear triggers our sympathetic nervous system causing adrenaline and cortisol to spike which leaves us wanting to “fight or flight”.
By taking deep breaths, we take in plenty of oxygen and this turns on the parasympathetic nervous system or “rest and digest” to switch off these hormones of stress bringing our system down to calmness. Also, focusing on our breathing helps us stay in the present moment, dropping down into our feeling body, which allows us to switch off the thoughts and fears which are causing our stress.
The ability to deep breathe has profound benefits in our body to naturally detox. When we shallow breathe, we’re not ridding the body of as much carbon-dioxide (CO2) -the waste product of gas exchange- as we can. If we don’t breathe out the CO2 efficiently, other organs need to take up the task of cleansing and this can lead to lower energy and build up of toxins that can make the body feel sluggish, stressed and increases our risk of illness.
- Better Sleep
It is shocking to read the statistics of how many people in the world deal with sleep disorders. Breathing full, deeply and smoothly can bring a person into the present moment before bedtime leading to letting go of what stresses happened the day before and this could help you experience a sense of relaxation and calm which may help you drift off. Especially learning to lengthen the exhale or making soft long sounds like “humming” (while exhaling) can help you fall asleep faster.
- Breath as a Natural Pain Relief
This is a very medicated time in human history since there is a pill for almost “everything”. We forget we always have our own natural ability to give ourselves relief from aches and pain. Deep breathing can aid in giving birth, migraines and letting go of physical, mental and emotional “pains”. When we focus on allowing our breaths to be deeper, the brain rewards us with endorphins that takes away stress and uplifts our moods and naturally kills pain. Bringing in more oxygen will boost our blood flow with nutrients and detoxes the toxic build-up. This naturally increases our energy to give us even more ability to manage pain and allows us to be more physically engaged.
- Feeling happier and more mentally clear
When we breathe deeply it becomes a form of meditation and brings us to the present moment which opens doors for happiness to flow and our minds to become calm and clear. We can simply focus our attention on the inhales and exhales of the breath cycles. Feel the rising and expanding of the chest on the inhale as well as the recoiling and descending on the exhale. This turns off the mind from the outside world and draws the attention inwards. This type of breathing also turns off the over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and switches us to the more nurturing and healing side of the nervous system (parasympathetic). Which combats the stress inducing neurotransmitters and balances, softens and relaxes the body-mind.
Thank you for reading and please practice deeper breathing. Set aside some time for yourself on a daily basis (5-15minutes) and see the wonders and beauty unfold that comes from focusing more on and aligning the rhythms of the breath. Finding deeper, fuller, smoother and softer but still energetic breaths will lead your lives into more vitality, well-being and health.