Most of us pay no attention to how we are breathing. It’s just something our body does automatically. But often our breathing is too shallow, which is not good for our health.
Deep breathing should be a part of your everyday life. It will help you live longer as well as make you happier, more productive and energetic.
Proper breathing should be deep, slow, rhythmic and done through the nose, not the mouth. In addition, you must try to breathe deeply into your abdomen, not just your chest.
Deep breaths should last 3 to 5 seconds breathing in and 3 to 5 seconds breathing out.
Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration.
A good thing about this is that you can do it anywhere at any time and it doesn’t cost anything! Even a short session of 10 minutes of deep breathing 2 or 3 times a day will have a huge impact on your physical and mental health.
With a little effort, deep breathing can become an easy and unconscious part of your daily life. Initially, you need to focus on your breath and soon you will start breathing deeper without having to think about it at all.
How to Do Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is very easy to do and you can learn it easily.
To perform it:
- Lie down on your back in a comfortable place free from any kind of distraction.
- Put your hands on your abdomen (to feel your way through the exercise) and try to relax your muscles.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your abdomen and then filling your lungs with air. Count slowly to 5 as you inhale.
- Hold your breath and count to 3.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth and empty your lungs completely. Again, count slowly to 5 as you exhale and try to release any tension from your muscles.
- Continue to inhale and exhale deeply for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Perform this exercise once in the morning and again before going to bed.
Laying down at the beginning is best but you can also do this while sitting. Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to establish a habit.
Here are 10 health advantages of deep breathing.
1. Reduces Stress
Deep breathing can reduce stress levels as well as help ease anxiety and tension. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
The brain then sends the same message to your body. It is important to manage stress, as it is a leading cause of health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes and more.
According to a preliminary study done in Spain in 2010, controlled breathing therapy helps reduce the level of the stress-induced hormone called cortisol. This in turn reduces stress.
The next time you are under stress, don’t sit in front of a television or start eating junk foods. Instead, go to a quiet place and take some deep breaths.
2. Detoxifies the Body
The lungs play an important role in eliminating toxins and waste products from the body. However, shallow breathing makes the lungs work harder to expel the waste.
Due the accumulation of toxins, you can suffer from health problems like inflammation, fatigue, weight gain, muscle loss, and high blood pressure.
By performing deep breathing, you can enhance the efficiency of your lungs. It will improve the overall functionality of your lymphatic system, which in turn will encourage the release of harmful toxins. It will also help pump the cleansed blood throughout the body.
3. Improves Lung Functionality
It also strengthens the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing plays a key role in expanding the lung tissues made up of several air sacs (alveolar sacs). This improves the functionality of your lungs. It can help prevent pneumonia and other post-operative complications.
Deep breathing feeds more oxygen to every cell in the body. Without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to lung problems and even heart disease.
It is even beneficial to people who are susceptible to pulmonary or respiratory problems. When done daily for 10 minutes, it will help reduce respiratory difficulties like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, and even chest pain.
4. Aids Weight Loss
A structured, deep breathing pattern can even help you lose weight. As more oxygen reaches your body through deep breathing, it helps burn up excess fat more efficiently.
According to research reported at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in 2005, a structured yoga and breathing program decreases body mass index (BMI) among obese teens.
As this breathing exercise concentrates on the abdominal region, it causes changes in blood flow to different regions of the brain and changes in metabolic activities of the brain.
Plus, when more oxygen reaches fat molecules (made up of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen) through deep breathing, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water.
Further, by stimulating your lymphatic system, your body gets rid of these waste products. Therefore, more oxygen means the more fat you will burn.
5. Helps You Sleep Better
If you are having difficulty getting sound sleep at night, definitely try deep breathing. This simple exercise serves two purposes.
First, it helps calm the central nervous system so that you feel more relaxed. Secondly, it works as a meditation to quiet the mind. Once your mind is calm and clear, you will surely enjoy sound sleep.
While deep breathing works well on its own, it becomes more effective when combined with other relaxation techniques like a warm bath before going to bed or enjoying some soft music.
Close your eyes and do deep breathing for 10 minutes before going to bed.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a growing health problem. Several factors cause it, such as high sodium intake, obesity, lack of physical activity and smoking. Fortunately, you can manage high blood pressure with deep breathing.
A 2005 study published in the AHA Journal found that slow breathing improves arterial baroreflex sensitivity and reduces blood pressure in essential hypertension.
First, deep breathing triggers relaxation by reinforcing and activating the parasympathetic system. Secondly, it helps break down salt so that your body can rid of it easily.
Practice belly breathing for 10 minutes 2 or 3 times a day to manage your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.
7. Relieves Pain
When you are in pain, the instant reaction is to hold your breath and then exhale to release the pain. Well, you can surely try slow, deep belly breathing to ease pain.
It releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good painkillers. It even alters your psychological state that also helps manage pain.
It also reduces the acidity level of the body, making it more alkaline. An alkaline body can control pain more easily than an acidic body.
Slow breathing also has a direct effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which helps control blood flow and skin temperature. This in turn can block pain.
8. Prevents Motion Sickness
Many people tend to get motion sickness on a moving boat, train, airplane, car or amusement park ride. You can stop motion sickness using deep breathing.
Slow, deep breathing prevents the symptoms of motion sickness, according to a 1999 study published in the Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine journal.
This non-pharmacological procedure increases parasympathetic nervous system activity that helps reduce symptoms of motion sickness. On the other hand, rapid and shallow breathing often makes symptoms worse.
To ease motion sickness, close your eyes and practice controlled, slow, deep breathing.
9. Improves Digestion
If you are suffering from poor digestion, bloating or constipation, you can try short sessions of belly breathing to get rid of the discomforts.
Slow, deep breaths increase blood flow to the digestive tract. This encourages intestinal action so that proper digestion takes place. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system, which also enhances optimal digestion.
In addition, when you breathe into your lower abdomen, it encourages regular bowel movements. People can experience this benefit right away and be free from constipation.
10. Makes You Energetic
Deeper inhales and exhales may be the easiest route to boost your energy level. Taking deeper breaths improves the oxygen and blood circulation in your body.
This improves your energy level and stamina. On the other hand, incorrect breathing reduces your productivity levels as it makes you slow and sluggish.
The higher oxygen content of the blood after deep breathing also helps you sleep better and reduce stress. These factors have a direct impact on your energy and productivity. It can even provide more energy to your body to heal and detoxify as well as boost your immune system.
Start your day with a 10-minute session of deep breathing to keep yourself energetic throughout the day.
Additional Tips for Deep Breathing
- When doing this simple breathing exercise, your abdomen should rise and fall noticeably during the whole process.
- You can even use white noise, relaxing music or the sound of rain to help you relax for deep breathing exercises.
- Post sticky notes around your home or office as reminders to make deep breathing a part of your daily life.
- You can do this exercise while driving to the office or any other place. Also, it’s great to do while you are on the computer, walking or watching television.