Breathing is something that all of us do all the time, without having to think about and yet believe or not, most of us do not breathe properly. Modern day life can be very busy, and many people experience high levels of stress, and when we are stressed our breathing becomes shallow.
If you were to take a few minutes now, to notice your breathing, my guess is that you would find that you breathe shallow from the chest area.
Have your ever watched a baby sleep, how peaceful and content do they look? If you notice their breathing they will be breathing from the tummies. When we revert to breathing like a baby, we have a quick, easy, instant and free way to relieve stress, and it can be done anywhere, anytime.
By spend some time each day consciously breathing slow and rhythmically and bringing air down deeper into your lungs will not only calm your stress levels, it will help you to be energized and focused.
I share this technique with all my clients, and now I am sharing with you. Take a few minutes to watch my simple video on how to breathe properly. Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to improve your stress levels and overall health and you can easily do this from anywhere, at any time. It costs nothing and takes very little effort. Take a little time each day to practice it and it will greatly reward your efforts.
Master you Nervous System
The part of the nervous system that cannot be controlled by our will is called the autonomous nervous system. It consists of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic pathways that regulate the vital functions of the body. These can be influenced by inner and outer factors of both physical and mental origins.
The sympathetic nervous system is mainly activated by stress and prepares the body for a fight. In other words, it is a survival mechanism that increases heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and dilates the pupils. It is termed a “fight or flight” response. Evolutionarily, it is necessary to be able to react promptly when facing immediate danger, but if the sympathetic nervous system becomes overburdened by prolonged stress, it can lead to serious consequences.
The parasympathetic nervous system, however, has a calming influence. It lowers the heart rate and blood pressure and simultaneously promotes digestion and the uptake of nutrients. It is termed “rest and digest”. Hence, it is primarily during rest, eating and sleeping that the parasympathetic nervous system dominates and coordinates the body’s repose and regeneration. It is mainly this part of the nervous system that is advantageous to activate through breathing exercises.
One of the most fundamentally important elements in the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve, which is the most complex of all of our nerves.
The vagus nerve has a lot of influence on your lungs and heart and the connection to your brain is quite interesting. This trinity, brain-heart-lungs, rules your body and governs your mind. The key to managing your state of mind and stress level lies in being able to activate the calming parasympathetic pathways of your nervous system on command. If you take a deep breath and hold your breath for a brief moment and then slowly exhale, the vagus nerve is stimulated bringing peace to your body and mind.
By consciously focusing on your breath and the movements of your diaphragm, you can influence the system enormously through the vagus nerve that spreads from your brain to your lungs, heart and other organs.
Try to activate your own vagus nerve. Simply breathe deeply in and out very slowly. Can you feel how your heart rate drops and your mind relaxes instantly!
10 Benefits of Deep Breathing
1. Deep Breathing makes you calmer. Breathing deeply and feeling calm is your natural state. Deep breathing naturally relaxes the mind and body. Breathing deeply is the fastest way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, aka the relaxation response, which makes you feel relaxed. Stress is at the core of most diseases and most of us live stressful busy lives, which is commonly accompanied with shallow breathing. When we breathe shallowly, the body does not receive as much oxygen as it needs and it makes our muscles constrict. You can almost feel this tightening when you are stressed or tense. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered when we feel stress or anxiety and sends out spikes of cortisol and adrenaline. It is the parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts this and breath is the fastest way for these two systems to communicate. With deeper breathing you can turn the switch from high alarm to low in seconds. Remember if you ever feel anxious to breathe deeply. Pay attention and you can feel the peace coming in and the tension being released as you simply (but deeply) breathe in and out.
2. Deep Breathing helps to detoxify the body. Our bodies are designed to release 70 percent of its toxins through breathing. Carbon dioxide is a natural toxic waste that comes from the body’s metabolic processes and it needs to be expelled from the body regularly and consistently. It gets transferred from the blood to our lungs and we expel it with our breath. However, when our lungs are compromised by shallow breathing, the other detoxification systems in the body take over and have to work harder to expel this waste. This overload can make the body weaker and lead to illness.
3. Deep Breathing relieves pain. Studies have proved it yet when we feel pain our instant unconscious reaction is to hold our breath. Remember that breathing deeply and breathing into pain will help to release it. Deep breathing releases endorphins which are the body’s natural feel good pain killers.
4. Deep Breathing makes you happier. Breathing deeply will increase the neurochemical production in the brain and release more of the ones that elevate moods and control pain.
5. Deep Breathing helps to improve your posture. Bad posture is often directly linked with incorrect breathing. Try it yourself and as you practise breathing deeply watch how you naturally straighten up. Filling your lungs encourages you to straighten your spine and stand or sit taller.
6. Deep Breathing stimulates the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a crucial system in our body that most of us are fairly unaware of. We know much more about our circulatory systems but we have twice the amount of lymphatic fluid in our body as we do blood. Our circulatory system relies on our heart to pump it, while the lymphatic system relies on our breathing to get it moving. 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.
7. Deep Breathing increases our cardiovascular capacity. It gives many of the same benefits of exercise and can enhance the benefits you get from exercise. Aerobic exercise (cardio) uses fat as energy, while anaerobic exercise (strength training) uses glucose as energy. By expanding our cardiovascular capacity from deep breathing we can do more cardio easier, which also increases our cardiovascular capacity and burns more fat cells as well.
8. Deep Breathing gives you energy. Drawing air deeper down into the lungs greatly increases blood flow as this is where the greatest amount of blood flow occurs, according to the American Medical Student Association. This increases energy and also improves stamina. 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.
9. Deep Breathing improves your digestion. More oxygen is supplied to the digestive organs and thereby helping them to work more efficiently. Deeper breathing also results in an increased blood flow, which in the digestive tract encourages intestinal action and will further improve your overall digestion. It addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn also enhances optimal digestion.
10. Deep Breathing strengthens the major organs of the body, such as lungs and the heart. Deep breathing expands the lungs and makes them work more efficiently. It also brings in more oxygen to the blood which gets sent to the heart and makes it so that the heart does not have to work so hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Also, with the lungs working a little harder pushing out oxygen into the blood it eases the pressure needed by the heart to pump it through the body. This improves your circulation and gives the heart a bit of a break.
Bonus: 11. Deep Breathing helps to regulate weight. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen will help to feed the cells and tissues. If you are overweight it will assist with weight loss. The extra oxygen in the body will help to burn up excess fat more efficiently. When we are stressed, and most of us live day to day in a fairly stressed state, your body tends to burn glycogen instead of fat. Deep breathing triggers the relaxation response which encourages the body to burn fat instead.