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Breathing is a vital process we frequently take for granted as we go about our daily lives. And we think considerably less about a deep breath.
But did you know that breathing exercises are one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve our overall health and well-being? They can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve lung capacity, and so much more.
Sit back and relax as we explore the significance of deep breaths and breathing exercises and the various techniques that can help you inhale and exhale air better.
Deep Breathing: What It Is
Deep breathing is a technique used to calm the mind and body by slowing down your respiration and taking deeper, fuller breaths. It’s a simple yet effective way to lessen stress and anxiety and helps the body relax.
When you practice deep respiration, you inhale through your nose, fill your lungs with fresh air, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Diaphragmatic breathing is one such technique that can help you take full advantage of your body’s respiratory system.
The key to deep breathing is to focus on your breath and be mindful of each inhale and exhale. You can place your hand on your stomach to feel it rise and fall with each breath. This helps you to slow down your respiration and become more aware of your body’s natural rhythms. It can also be done anytime, anywhere. You can do it before bed to help you sleep better or during a stressful situation to help you feel more grounded and centered.
What are the 4 Benefits of Doing Breathing Exercises?
Inhale. Exhale. It’s a no-brainer thing we do every day of our lives. What we don’t realize is how it brings so much wonder to our minds and body. Here are some of the amazing health benefits it brings to healthy adults:
Lowers Blood Pressure
One of the most significant benefits of breathing exercises is their effect on blood pressure and heart rate. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Research has shown that practicing diaphragmatic breathing regularly can aid in reducing stress and blood pressure and lessen the risk of heart disease.
Exercise on taking air in and out can help lower blood pressure by activating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” functions, which can help to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” response.
When we are stressed, our bodies release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase blood pressure. Breath exercises can help to reduce the levels of these hormones in our bodies. By filling the lungs with air, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body, leading to a decrease in blood pressure and improved heart rate.
Improves Lung Function
Practicing respiratory exercises regularly can improve lung capacity and promote healthy lungs. When we breathe, the lungs expand and contract, allowing us to take in fresh oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide and other gases.
Breathing exercises improve lung operation and oxygen levels, making it easier to breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is particularly effective for lung conditions as it involves using the diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle located at the bottom of the lungs, to breathe deeply.
Research has shown that regular practice of breathing exercises can also help individuals with chronic lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. A study conducted by the American Lung Association found that participants who engaged in regular respiratory exercises experienced significant improvements in lung performance, as well as reductions in symptoms such as shortness of breath.
Strengthens Stomach and Chest Muscles
As inhaling and exhaling involves using stomach and chest muscles to breathe deeply and effectively, it also brings a positive impact on the stomach and chest. Diaphragmatic breathing, for example, involves taking deep breaths and focusing on expanding the diaphragm and lower abdominal muscles. This helps to engage the stomach muscles and can lead to improved digestion and reduced symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Breathing exercises can also benefit the upper chest, particularly the intercostal muscles that run between the ribs. These muscles are responsible for expanding and contracting the rib cage during respiration. Constant practice of deep breathing can help strengthen these body functions, improving their ability to expand the chest and take in more air.
In addition to strengthening these muscles, respiratory exercises can also help to reduce tension and stress in the muscles of the stomach and upper chest. It is often used as a relaxation technique, helping to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and promoting a sense of calm. Deep breathing can also target the upper chest and rib cage, which can relieve tension and ease symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Promotes Mental Health
Breathing exercises have a lot of benefits for your psychological welfare. When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, your breathing tends to become shallow and rapid, which can exacerbate these feelings. By taking deep, slow breaths, you can activate your body’s relaxation response and enhances your immune system, which then helps to calm your mind and body.
Here are some of the ways that breathing exercises can benefit your mental health:
Reduce stress and anxiety: When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your body produces cortisol, which is a hormone that can have negative effects on your mental and physical health. By taking deep breaths, you can decrease the levels of cortisol in your body and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Improve focus and concentration: Deep breathing exercises can help improve your focus and concentration by increasing the oxygen flow to your brain. This helps to improve cognitive function and can help you stay focused on tasks.
Promote relaxation and better sleep: By reducing blood pressure and slowing down your heart rate, breathing exercises can help you unwind and sleep better. This lets you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, leading to improved mental and physical health.
Manage symptoms of depression: Breathing exercises can help manage symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of endorphins in your body. Endorphins are natural chemicals that can improve mood and decrease feelings of pain.
Enhance emotional regulation: Breathing exercises can help enhance emotional regulation by increasing self-awareness and mindfulness. This can help you better understand your emotions and manage them in a healthier way.
Types of Deep Breathing Exercises
Now that we know the many health benefits that breathing can bring, how do we do it properly, then? Let’s take a look at some effective breathing techniques we can spend for a few minutes every day.
One popular breathing exercise is called diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing or abdominal breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that involves taking deep and full breaths into the diaphragm, the muscle located between the chest and abdominal muscles.
To perform diaphragmatic breathing exercises, find a flat surface to lie on with your knees bent or to sit comfortably. Keep your mouth closed and place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and feel your stomach expand as your diaphragm pulls down to allow your lungs to fill with air.
Be mindful to relax your neck and shoulders. Then, release the breath slowly by exhaling through your mouth, feeling your stomach contract as your diaphragm pushes up to push the air out of your lungs. Repeat this exercise for several minutes, focusing on taking slow, full breaths.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Another breathing exercise is called pursed lip breathing, which can be helpful for those with chronic lung diseases or shortness of breath. Taking in air through pursed lips may seem strange or uneasy, but the approach will get simpler with continued use.
To perform this exercise, inhale slowly through your nose, then breathe out gradually through your mouth with your lips pursed together as if you’re blowing out a candle. This technique helps regulate your breathing and ensures that you’re exhaling air fully.
Box or square breathing is another popular breathing technique that can help curtail the effects of stress and better focus. The term box breathing, also known as 4×4 breathing or square breathing, refers to the idea that a box has four sides, which is performed in this exercise by breathing while slowly counting to four, four times.
To perform this exercise, sit comfortably and breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale gently through your mouth for a count of four.
Finally, hold your breath for a count of four before starting the cycle again. Repeat this exercise for several minutes, focusing on taking slow, deep-seated breaths and relaxing your body.
Why are Breathing Exercises Important for Mental Health?
We can’t stress enough how important deep breathing is for mental health. Taking deep breaths can help regulate breathing rate, leading to reduced stress. When we are anxious, our breathing rate can become shallow and quick. Practicing a deep breathing technique can help slow down your breathing and calm your mind.
By taking just a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing, you may feel free from stress and anxiety, improve your focus and concentration, promote relaxation and better sleep, manage symptoms of depression, and enhance emotional regulation.
Breathing exercises, particularly diaphragmatic breathing, can have a profound impact on your health and well-being. By targeting various muscle groups and systems in your body, breathing exercises can lessen the effects of physical and mental pressure.
It can also strengthen our body’s most important muscle, the diaphragm, and ensure that we’re breathing at full capacity. A calmer state of mind and improved general health can therefore be attained through the regular use of relaxation techniques and deep breathing.
It is important to note however that as with any exercise, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your breathing exercises. If you experience any discomfort or pain during breathing exercises, stop immediately and speak with a healthcare provider.
Try setting aside a few minutes each day to practice pursed lips, box, or diaphragmatic breathing. You can also try taking yoga, meditation class, and progressive muscle relaxation as these practices often incorporate breathing exercises. So the next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, take a deep breath and start breathing your way to a healthier you!