To breathe is to live! Every organ in your body relies on oxygen. From your nervous system to the digestive system, effective breathing not only provides you with mental clarity but also helps you to sleep better, digests your food, improves your immunity, and reduces your stress level.
Breathing also increases pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain to elevate moods and combat physical pain. Most often, you are doing shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is constricted, tense, and not good for your overall health. Deep breathing is a natural stress-buster and is beneficial for your overall health.
In this article, we will look at how to do deep breathing and the reasons to practice deep breathing.
Your Respiratory System and the Process of Breathing
Breathing is the process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into your lungs through the nose or the mouth. Your breathing or respiratory system is the network of organs and tissues that help you breathe.
The nose is the primary organ of your body’s respiratory system and is also the organ of smell. Air enters into your body (inhalation of oxygen) and expels (exhalation of carbon dioxide) out through the nose. Oxygen (O2) is the life-supporting gas for all living organisms and carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless gas that contains one molecule of carbon and two molecules of oxygen.
Your lungs (spongy organs located on either side of your chest) are responsible for the exchange of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to keep the heart, brain, and overall functioning of your body normal. Lung function and lung capacity are determined through the efficiency of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs. Breathing properly is necessary to support your lung function and maintain/increase your lung capacity.
Deep Breathing and How to Practice It
In order to breathe properly, you need to breathe deeply into your abdomen, not just your chest. Even in the old Greek and Roman times, the doctors recommended deep breathing, i.e., the voluntary holding of air in your lungs, believing that this technique cleansed your body of all impurities and increased overall strength.
Deep breathing (or proper breathing) is the easiest and simplest way to relax and release your stress. You can do it anywhere, and at any point of the day. It is also called belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and abdominal breathing. Deep breathing is known to lower your blood pressure and relax tense muscles.
Diaphragmatic breathing means fully engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm (a dome-shaped skeletal muscle located in the interior of your rib cage) when breathing. Your diaphragm is the major muscle of respiration, that contracts rhythmically and continuously. Upon inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and flattens and the chest cavity enlarges. Upon exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and returns to its dome-like shape, and air is forced out of your lungs.
Deep breathing is slow, rhythmic, and through the nose, not through the mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths three to four seconds in, and three to four seconds out.
Steps for Deep Breathing
1. Sit or lie down in a quiet, comfortable place.
2. Start by observing your breath for a few moments and take a normal breath (inhale and exhale through your nose).
3. Now take a slow, deep breath. Let the air coming in through your nose move downward into your lower belly. You will notice that your abdomen expands fully.
4. Hold this position or your breath for 2 to 3 seconds.
5. Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).
This is how simple deep breathing is. Remember to pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply.
Do deep breathing when you are stressed, angry, anxious, feeling low, or tense. Practicing deep breathing for 10 minutes every day, either in the morning, night, or during the day can have a significant impact on your overall physical and mental health.
Let us look at the benefits of deep breathing and why you should make it part of your everyday living.
14 Benefits of Deep Breathing
1. Breathing detoxifies and releases toxins.
Your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins (harmful, unwanted substances) through breathing. If you are not breathing effectively, you are not properly ridding your body of its toxins and thus, other systems of your body must work overtime to release the toxins, which could eventually lead to an illness.
When you exhale air from your body, you release carbon dioxide that has been passed from your bloodstream into your lungs. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste of your body’s metabolism (chemical processes that go on continuously inside your body to keep you alive).
2. Deep breathing releases tension.
Think how your body feels when you are tense, angry, scared, or stressed. It constricts. Your muscles get tight and your breathing becomes shallow. When your breathing is shallow, you are not getting the amount of oxygen that your body needs. Deep breathing helps more oxygen enter your body, releasing the tension in your muscles.
3. Breathing relaxes your mind/body and brings clarity.
Oxygenation of the brain reduces excessive anxiety levels. Pay attention to your breathing; breathe slowly, deeply, and purposefully into your body. Notice any places that are tight and breathe into them. As you relax your body, you may find that the breathing brings clarity and positive insights.
4. Breathing relieves emotional problems.
Deep breathing will help clear uneasy feelings out of your body. It disengages your mind from disturbing and negative thoughts. When you breathe properly, your body sends signals to your brain asking it to calm down and relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotions that you might be carrying around.
5. Breathing relieves pain.
What happens to your breathing when you anticipate pain? You probably hold your breath. Yet studies show that breathing into your pain helps to ease it.
Understand that when muscles are tense, they increase pressure on your nerves, which can make the pain worse. Breathing exercises can help break this cycle. Conscious or deep breathing will relax your body and release tension around the pain site.
6. Breathing massages your organs.
The movements of the diaphragm during deep breathing massages your stomach, small intestine, liver, and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart.
When you inhale air, your diaphragm descends and your abdomen expands. By this action, you massage vital organs and improve circulation in them. Controlled breathing also strengthens and tones your abdominal muscles.
7. Breathing strengthens your immune system.
Deep breathing expands your lungs and increases efficiency in oxygen absorption and supply. Oxygen travels through your bloodstream by attaching to heamoglobin (a type of protein that carries oxygen) in your red blood cells. This in turn then enriches your body to metabolize nutrients and vitamins, strengthens the muscles of the chest, improves digestion and quality of sleep. As a result, it strengthens your overall immune system by reducing stress and allowing enough rest.
8. Breathing improves posture.
Good breathing techniques over a sustained period of time will encourage good posture and vice versa. Bad body posture will result in incorrect breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing improves your body’s balance and helps correct wrong/slouching posture.
9. Breathing improves the quality of your blood.
Slow and deep breathing increases the level of oxygen in your blood. It removes excess carbon dioxide and increases oxygen in the blood and thus increases/enhances your blood quality.
10. Breathing increases digestion and assimilation of food.
Your digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen and hence operate more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more, allowing for faster and quicker absorption of nutrients and vitamins in your blood.
11. Breathing improves the nervous system.
Deep, long breaths activate your nervous system and increase its efficiency in handling the stress responses.
12. Proper breathing makes the heart stronger.
Breathing exercises reduce the workload on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by your heart. So, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues.
Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in blood circulation, thus resting your heart a little.
13. Proper breathing assists in weight control.
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen in your body and this extra oxygen supplied to your body helps in burning the extra fat that is deposited in your body.
14. Breathing elevates your mood.
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and promotes calmness. It induces the release of endorphins, your ‘feel-good’ hormones that lift or elevate your mood.
To summarize, schedule your deep breathing exercise just as you would schedule important business appointments. Set aside a minimum of two 10 minute segments of time everyday although you can begin with two five minutes segments if you prefer. Make deep breathing a part of daily life to stay healthy, longer, and livelier.
Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.