Taken for granted. Breathing is grossly undervalued and underappreciated in our lives. We do it automatically, no one thinks to breathe. But breathing is a unique biological function – because it’s voluntary and involuntary – that has profound effects on our lives in virtually every regard.
Breathing gives us balance in our daily lives. Think about it. What do you in times when you need to calm down, regroup and clear your head? You’ve always been told to take a deep breath. Extrapolate that exercise and idea, and apply it on a more regular basis and you’ll really see the benefits. It’s like when you save up money, you don’t enjoy that money in the moment, you defer it. You stock up. Same philosophy applies here. The more you do it, the better the results. In our world of quick fixes it’s easy to give up quickly on something that doesn’t produce a punch-in-the-face, should-have-happened-yesterday, discernible effect. But learning how to stop, pause and breathe every once in a while will do a long-term good.
Normally when we’re going about our day we take shortened, shallow breaths. In the modern western world, little emphasis is placed on breathing methods and we tend to overlook the importance and efficacy of breathing. Focusing on inhaling slowly and savoring our breaths has a far greater bang for their buck. Let your breath settle in to your body and take a look around. Feel the air flow through your body. Be mindful of each breath, experience it. Be in the moment. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Breathe through your nostrils, arch your back, pull your shoulders back and feel the air travel down your throat and into your lungs. Feel the air travel to your arms, legs, hands and feet. Be mindful of all new sensations and nuances. Be in the moment. Experience the act of breathing. Whether you dedicate a few moments to closing your eyes and breathing or consciously breathe deeper throughout the day, do it. It works.
Up your energy. Bringing air deeper down into the lungs will increase blood flow increasing energy and improving stamina by improving lung function. The improved oxygen content of the blood, which cleanses the body and all its cells of 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.
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, like serotonin.
Eliminates free radicals. Yep, gone. Helping to remove toxins from the blood and body, improving cellular function and lifespan
Deep Breathing helps to detoxify the body. Approximately 70 percent of the toxins in our bodies are released through breathing. Carbon dioxide being one of the bigger culprits is produced through the body’s metabolic processes and needs to be expelled from the body regularly and consistently; it’s transferred from the blood to our lungs and we expel it with our breath.
However, when our lungs are compromised by shallow breathing mitigates the effect of the process and relies on other detoxification systems in the body to pick up the slack. This additional stress reduces efficiency in other areas and makes us more vulnerable.
Stimulates the lymphatic system. We have twice the amount of lymphatic fluid in our body as blood, and while our circulatory system relies on our heart, our lymphatic system relies on our breathing. When our blood pumps oxygen and nutrients to the cells and they absorb what they need, they excrete their waste back out into the sea of lymphatic fluid that our cells constantly swim in. Breathing shallowly can lead to a sluggish lymphatic system which means inefficient detoxification.
Deep Breathing makes you calmer. Breathing deeply is the fastest way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, aka the relaxation response, which makes you feel relaxed. When we breathe shallowly, the body does not receive as much oxygen as it needs and causes our muscles to constrict. 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. Controlled breathing may be the most effective tool we have to prevent our brains from keeping us in a state of stress, and preventing subsequent damage caused by high stress levels.
Control your weight. It will reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which builds fat around your mid-section.
Well, we’re not going to exactly how to tell you how to breathe, you already have a good idea how to do it, BUT a good starting point is allocating just 1 minute a day or 10 controlled breaths. Healthy adults breath once every 3-5 seconds, with that in mind, start your practice with the following:
- Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes
- Through your nostrils, breathe in for a count of 5. Focus on expanding below the navel for improved diaphragmatic breathing
- Hold for 2
- Release through your nostrils for a 7 count, focusing on pushing the air back up from through the diaphragm (below the navel)
- Hold for 2
Controlled and deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to dramatically improve our health that you can anywhere, at any time, inexpensively – aka #free! – and with little effort. Like anything else, like Nike says, Just Do it.