The Power of Deliberate Breathing
Today many people around the world speak of stress being an expected part of daily life. We all are familiar with work stress, deadlines, financial stress, relationship stress and many other stressors in our daily lives. Biologically, our bodies are prepared for stress. We have heard of the state of being called “flight or fight” often described as a situation in which we face something extreme and somehow gather strength and speed. This reaction is known as the stress response. Your body is designed to do it automatically when it perceives danger and is preparing to confront or avoid it.
The stress response is an incredible gift, that definitely reminds us of the incredible brilliance in the design of the human body. The fact is, the stress response is not something that we are supposed to encounter on a daily basis. Our bodies were not designed for that type of living. Trouble begins when this response is provoked every day. The results we see when it is a daily occurrence are high blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, anxiety and depression.
Being that so many people now acknowledge they do experience high levels of stress, or any level of stress every day, it is now truly a necessity to learn techniques to counteract that stress and help our bodies help us. One way to do that is to learn techniques that create a relaxation response. The relaxation response is a state that can be elicited through many activities including yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
According to Harvard Health deep breathing goes by names such as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you are taking deep breaths you can feel the air coming in through your nose and fully filling your lungs and your lower belly rising.
Most of us do not take deep breaths. As we grow older, our environment is more fast paced, we often take shorter, quicker breaths all day. In addition in todays culture body image is important to many. As a result people tend to hold in their stomachs and create a flat or muscular stomach area. By the time we are teenagers moving into our twenties we are so used to more shallow breathing, we begin to believe that when our chest rising we have taken a good healthy breath.
When you take a breath that only makes your chest rise you are compromising your immune system. You begin to increase tension and anxiety. In addition shallow breathing limits the diaphragms range of motion. Your lungs lose the benefit of expanding and stretching and your cells lose the oxygen levels that help them maintain optimal health.
There are many relaxation and breathing exercises that can facilitate your body having a relaxation response. One of the techniques we use is called Deliberate Breathing.
Deliberate Breathing has an incredible impact on your immune system, and your mental and physical health overall. Studies have shown some of the benefits are; reduced anxiety and depression, stabilized blood pressure, increased energy levels and decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Two Easy Steps for Deliberate Breathing
Focusing on breathing helps you concentrate and aids in decreasing distracting thoughts and pain among many other benefits.
Step 1– Take a deep breath in through your nose, and when you think you have taken in enough, take in some more. You should feel your lungs expand and see your lower stomach rising. Count from 1-5 as you take the in the deep breath of air.
Step 2– Breathe out through your mouth, slowly and deliberately. As you are breathing out count down from 7-1.
In order to make this helpful for you and your mental and physical well-being you need to do this deliberately for a length of time. You can go take a five minute break during your day and do Deliberate Breathing. You may want to begin a meditation or yoga routine both will have some type of breathing process involved in the practice, often varying based on the instructors training. If you are going to choose to do Deliberate Breathing create a routine that allows you to it for at least 30 minutes a day, it does not have to be consecutive time. The key here is focusing on your breath and counting which gives you some stress free time and your body more of the oxygen it requires to reach optimal health.
Havard Medical School. Harvard Health Publications. January 2015