You probably don’t think about your breath that often. It’s always there in the background, and you are doing it right now. But paying more attention to your breathing can significantly impact your stress levels. When you experience stress or anxiety, you may experience irregular or shallow breathing, which makes it hard to get more air in, and you may even experience hyperventilation. Deep breathing is a practice that enables more airflow into your body and can help calm your nerves and reduce stress and anxiety.
Now that I have your attention, there are four types of breathing; the first type is Eupnea, which is the type you are probably doing right now while reading this newsletter. This type of breathing occurs when you are not thinking about breathing. Also known as “quiet breathing,” both the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles must contract. The second type is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing, and the muscle must contract in this type of respiration. As the muscles contract, breath passively leaves the lungs. The third type of breathing is coastal breathing, also known as “shallow breathing,” which uses your intercostal muscles, the muscles between your ribs. If you are stressed, you may be doing this breathing right now (or even unconsciously holding your breath). The last type of breathing is called hyperpnea, also known as forced breathing, where both inhalation and exhalation are active, not passive, due to muscle contraction.
Of all four types of breathing, Deep Breathing is one of the easiest, most convenient, and most natural tools to combat issues like stress, and anxiety, reduce pain and high blood pressure, and even aid digestion. Oxygen does wonders for the body and mind. It cleanses, opens, and soothes different parts of our well-being and is overall something extremely healthy we can all do. Below are some of the benefits of deep breathing:
1) Decreases stress and increases calm. When you become stressed or anxious, your brain releases cortisol, the “stress hormone.” By taking deep breaths, your heart rate slows, and more oxygen enters your bloodstream and ultimately communicates with the brain to relax. Deep breathing also ups your endorphins, the “feel good” chemical.
2) Relieves pain. Deep breathing triggers the release of endorphins, which not only helps create a feeling but also combats pain.
3) Stimulates the lymphatic system (Detoxifies the body). Breathing oversees 70% of cleansing the body of toxins (the other 30% is through the bladder and bowels.) Breathing releases carbon monoxide, which is important to fully release. If you do not breathe fully, your body must work overtime to release these toxins.
4) Improves immunity. When fully oxygenated, your blood carries and absorbs nutrients and vitamins more efficiently. Essentially, the cleaner the blood, the harder it is for illnesses to stay in your system.
5) Increases energy. The more oxygen in the blood, the better our body functions. It also improves our stamina.
6) Lowers blood pressure. As your muscles relax, your blood vessels dilate, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Deep breathing also slows and regulates the heart rate, which also helps with lowering your BP.
7) Improves digestion. The more you breathe deep, the healthier blood flow you will produce, promoting your organs to function more effectively, including your intestines.
8) Helps support correct posture. When you take a deep breath in, your lungs take up maximum space, and your diaphragm pulls down, so your torso straightens for this to be possible. Next time you breathe in, notice that you simultaneously lengthen and straighten your spine.
Deep breathing is somewhat unnatural for your body, so just like learning any new skill, it takes practice! Try to incorporate one breathing exercise each day. Here is a simple breathing exercise that can be incorporated into your daily routine:
Breathe in calmly through the nose, filling your abdomen and chest, for 5 seconds (or longer, not exceeding 7 seconds). Hold this breath in for 3 seconds. Slowly and gently release the breath through the mouth for 5 seconds (or more, whatever is comfortable). Breathe out through a slightly parted lip or “O” shaped lips. Repeat this five times, or even better, continue for five minutes. Deep breathing should be slow and gentle. Remember to fill the abdomen and not just the chest.
Sometimes when life, work, road rage, or stress gets the best of you, try not to get frustrated or aggravated but STOP and take a deep breath. You won’t regret it.
Source: RefreshMH. “Benefits of Deep Breathing.” Urban Balance, 3 Nov. 2014, https://www.urbanbalance.com/benefits-deep-breathing/.