Breathing with our diaphragm is how we were meant to breathe. What is more, research has shown it has many powerful health benefits. However, most of us breathe incorrectly. In this article we explore why we don’t breathe properly and its negative impacts then go on to enumerate various health benefits that you can enjoy if you learn to breath properly. You are also invited to learn another powerful breathing exercise.
Shallow breathing has a negative impact from the cellular level right on up to our major systems.
In the last article about the power of breathing properly, I emphasized how distorted thought forms and stressful lifestyles leads to an over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight and flight response. The stress response, as it is also called, causes significant changes in your body to prepare it for action. One of the symptoms of this state is short shallow breathing where the shoulders and rib muscles are used to move air in and out of the lungs. The problem is that most people breathe as if they are anxious and stressed most of the time thus leading to an ongoing negative feedback loop. Bottom line: we breathe as if we are stressed and so we trigger other stress symptoms. The result is that our neurophysiology is constantly primed for action that doesn’t come and so we end up like tightly wound springs which in the end causes poor mental and physical health. Shallow stress breathing has a negative impact starting from the cellular level right on up to our major systems; respiratory, circulatory, immune, nervous, digestive, endocrine and lymphatic.
Research demonstrates the health benefits of good breathing.
Given the above it is not surprising that research has demonstrated a whole range of health benefits associated with good breathing habits, particularly deep-diaphragmatic breathing. Here are some of them:
- Strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
- Balances levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and intercellular fluid
- Reduces stress by lowering stress related hormones in the blood
- Effective at treating anxiety, depression and other stress related disorders
- Reduces blood pressure
- Boosts the function of the lymphatic system
- Reduces lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
- Strengthens immune system
- Reduces the risk of heart disease by lowing blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugars
- Significantly reduces the risk of cancer
- Lowers the level harmful cholesterol (LDL)
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Slows the aging process by increasing the secretion of human growth hormone (the anti-aging hormone)
- Improves your mood by elevating the “feel good” hormones such as serotonin, and other endorphins
- Helps reduced risk of diabetes by strengthening the insulin beta receptor sites
- Improves mental focus and concentration by increasing the oxygen flow to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain
- Increases feelings of calm and wellbeing
- Increases physical energy
- Effective at dealing with eating disorders
- Reduces obesity
While this list is not exhaustive it certainly provides strong reasons why we should develop good breathing habits and regularly practice deep-diaphragmatic breathing techniques such as those presented here.
Breathing for vitality exercise # 3
The 4-7-8 breathe cycle
The best way to do this exercise is to memorize the instructions and do it in your own time. The instructions are as follows:
- Set an alarm for 2 minutes – or longer.
- Note your mental state on a scale of 1 – 9 where 1 is stressed to the max and 9 is totally Zen
- Sit with your back straight, head up and chin slightly tucked in. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the exercise. You will inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth around your tongue. Here is the breath cycle:
- Start your timer and close your eyes.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, until your lungs are empty
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth, making a whooshing sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now repeat the cycle until the 2 minutes are up.
- Check back on your 1 -9 scale.
Note. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; it is the ratio of 4:7:8 that is important.
Be aware of your breathing. Regularly through the day remind yourself to breath diaphragmatically and then take a couple of long slow deep diaphragm breaths.
- 1.How we learnt to breath in a way that creates more stress and pain
- 2.How breathing correctly can crush the devastating effects of toxic thoughts
- 3.20 scientifically proven health benefits of diaphragmatic breathing
- 4.How to breathe with your diaphragm and get your energy back.