Whenever I teach a class , you keep on listening “ Take a deep breath “ or “ Breathe”.Ever wonder why ? I am going to focus on why do you need to breathe DEEP?
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.
HOW TO BREATHE ?
Now comes the question how to make sure if I am breathing deeply or not ?
Remember the cue I always give in class , pop your hands on your belly to feel the flow of your breath ?
Breathe deeply into your abdomen, not just your chest. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic and done through the nose, not the mouth. Each breath should ideally last three to four seconds breathing in and three to four seconds breathing out. Deep full breaths that fill your lungs use your diaphragm. When you breathe deeply your diaphragm muscle pulls your lungs down, so that they expand and so that you can really circulate oxygen down into the whole lung.
Breathe in slowly and imagine your lungs filling up with air: your chest slightly widens, your diaphragm pulls your chest cavity down and your belly button pulls away from your spine as you breathe in. When your lungs are full, exhale slowly and pull your belly button back in towards your spine to push out all of the air from the lungs.
BUT I FORGET TO BREATHE ?
This is the biggest struggle for most of us . In our busy and stressful life, we sometimes, do not realise that actually we have been holding our breath , we are not breathing .
It is true , one of my client told me that she sometimes, actually, forgets to breathe!!
So few small help to yourself :
Post sticky notes around your home or office as reminders when you see them to breathe deeply. The benefit of this exercise is that it doesn’t take any extra time, we can breathe while doing anything else; we just need to be reminded to do it.
Put a note or something to remind you when driving. Try to get into the habit of breathing deeply when you come to a red light. Or make it a habit when you do a certain task, or go into a certain room. Pick something that will work for you.
If you sit at a computer for long periods sometimes we become so engaged that we forget to breathe. Lack of oxygen affects all of our processes, including and especially the brain and often when we are working on the computer we are multitasking and thinking of several things. Therefore, it is especially important to remember to take periods of conscious deep breathing to work more efficiently and so we don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed
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.