Have you ever been in a situation where you are feeling stressed or dizzy and someone tells you, just breathe? Or have you ever taken a yoga class or work out class, where the instructor tells you to be mindful of your breath? Have you ever thought more into it?
Of course we need to breathe, it’s part of being alive. However, there is more scientific evidence that being mindful of your breathing and taking the time to breathe deeper and slower can actually have significant health benefits. The official term for deep breathing is Diaphragmatic Breathing, which means breathing so deep that you feel it in your stomach. This is the type of breathing practiced in yoga and meditation. From lowering blood pressure and stress levels to strengthening muscles, Diaphragmatic Breathing brings a number of benefits to the body. Here's a few…
When we take deeper breaths, the upward and downward motion of the diaphragm removes toxins in the body, which promote better blood flow and lower blood pressure. Research supports these claims. One study testing mindful breathing on young adults with high blood pressure over a year period, showed that those who practice deeper breathing had significantly lower cortisol hyperextensions. In other words, the deeper breathing methods helped reduce participants blood pressure and risk for future development of high blood pressure.
When you are stressed, tense or scared, your natural response is for muscles to tighten and breathing to become shallow. When your breathing is constricted, your body does not get the proper amount of oxygen it requires. Therefore, pausing during these stressful moments to take long deep breathes reverses the negative effects of stress on the body. Taking deep breaths allows more oxygen to the brain and body, thus relieving tension and calming the body and mind.
Studies have tested the effects of breathing exercise on participants who suffered from high stress levels. One physical sign of stress is elevated cortisol levels, that researchers used as a measurement in this study. The participants were told to use a variety of breathing exercises at least once a day, as well as when they were feeling stressed or overwhelmed. After a three month period, those who practiced breathing exercises had significantly lower levels of cortisol than those who did not.
With the significant increase in stress disorders over the years, many researchers have started looking into alternative or natural methods for humans to cope with stress and anxiety. Many studies reveal that controlled rhythmic breathing, as practiced in yoga, has a positive impact for helping with anxiety.
One study that stood out was one conducted on military veterans suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The researcher wanted to investigate the alternative approach of breathing-based meditation over a one year period on the veterans. The veterans who were taught and used breathing techniques during PTSD episodes or anxiety showed significant reduction in PTSD scores than those who did not use the breathing exercise. As a result, mindful breathing was able to decrease anxiety symptoms and respiration rates causing the episodes.
Our body is constantly detoxifying itself through breathing, as carbon dioxide is a natural detoxifier. When we exhale l, the carbon dioxide takes waste from the body with it. Therefore, when our lungs are compromised by shallow breathing, our natural detoxification system starts working on overdrive to expel the waste in our body. Thus, resulting in our body weakening and leaving us more susceptible to illness. When we take the time to breathe and be more mindful of taking deeper breaths, more oxygen enters the body and our lungs open more. Resulting in more carbon dioxide taking the toxins out of the body. It seems like such a small and silly thing, but taking deeper breaths really goes a long way for our body.
More often than not, we don’t realize that our breath becomes more shallow as we get later into our day. A sign of shallow breathing is that afternoon slump, where you feel like you've hit a wall and have low energy. The afternoon slump can be caused by lack of oxygen in the body. When our body has decreased oxygen levels, our organs are working in overdrive to compensate, causing us to feel tired and lack energy. By taking the time to be mindful of your breathing, you can increase energy levels significantly, by allowing more oxygen into the lungs and brain so that your body can function efficiently and effectively.
Our whole body's system relies on oxygen to function. When we breathe deeper, more oxygen is able to reach each body part, including our digestive system. More oxygen to the body increases blood flow which encourages intestinal action, thus improving your overall digestion. Deeper breathing also calms our nervous system, which also enhances optimal digestion.
"if you’re breathing sub-optimally, dysfunctional or flat out wrong, it's almost impossible for your body to reap all the benefits from even the best diet, the best hydration or exercise program. Dysfunctional breathing is almost the respiratory equivalent of eating fast food, not once or twice, but 23,000 times a day. What if instead of eating fast food 23,000 times a day, we took ourselves to the spa? What if 23,000 times a day we invested in our vitality? What if 23,000 times a day we took ourselves back to the calm"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jocelyn's passion to help others drives her work here at FUM. Jocelyn uses her research knowledge to bring information to the FUM Family on how to improve health. She graduated with a degree in Business Management and Organizational Communication from University of Ottawa and currently lives in Calgary, Canada.