According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of people have compromised physical health levels due to stress, 73% of people have compromised mental health due to stress and 48% of people can’t sleep well due to stress. Those are some scary statistics.
Our bodies are carefully planned to ensure our survival due to evolution. One of the most significant and vital mechanisms our body has, is to be able to breathe. Breathing is the essence of life as it helps bring vital oxygen into our body, which we need for everything we do.
Our bodies have two primary modes within the nervous system. One is known as the fight or flight system; where your body is fuelled with energy to either fight or run away from the situation as soon as possible to ensure your safety. Stress levels rise, attention rises, focus rises. Have you noticed that if you’re about the fall over, all of a sudden your body gets jolted awake?
When the flight or fight system is enabled, our bodies focus blood on pumping the heart, your limbs, your brain etc to get away as fast you can. Energy is sent to the core parts, needed to escape, quickly. This compromises digestion, mental clarity, a sense of peace, immune system and so much more.
The function of the fight or flight system is to ensure your safety which is undeniably vital to survival. Unfortunately, daily stress triggers like anxiety about a meeting, arguing with loved ones, missed mail, late bills, even something new can spark this fight or flight system. With all these triggers bombarding us, we’re often stuck within the fight or flight systems for long periods of time.
Staying in this system causes immense damage to our bodies. As mentioned prior, the fight or flight system is only really concerned with your safety. Functions like deep sleep, relaxation, rest, proper digestion, immune system function and more, are really quite neglected when we’re in this state.
Deep breathing allows the body to switch from the fight or flight, into rest and digest system. Rest and digest means peace, tranquillity and relaxation. Deep breathing means deep oxygenation, which helps our brain, muscles, spine, organs, energy levels, mood and much more. The breath is an incredibly effective tool to improve energy levels, reduce stress levels, make you feel better and make you function better.
Society has developed terrible breathing habits since our childhoods. We’re often taught to breathe into our chests, which is quite a restricted and shallow from of breathing. By doing this, the lack of rich oxygen deep within your body causes tiredness, fatigue, boredom, poor moods and a myriad of other complications. Your organs are gasping for air.
On the flip side, deep breathing is incredibly effective in drastically reducing stress. Neurologically, deep breathing sends a signal to the brain indicating that “hey we have no reason to fear”, and sends a neurological signal to the brain to calm down. As a consequence of this alone, our stress levels drop, heart rate drops, we get richer oxygen and your body can fully relax. When our body fully relaxes, oxygen effortlessly reaches all around your body. Your posture improves, your energy and mood improves, and your productivity and efficiency improves.
Just like the concepts of Yin and Yang, active times must be accompanied with periods of proper relaxation to enable the body and the mind to function at its best, and it ensures the body gets the rest and repair it needs. Deep breathing is a powerful, effective way to ensure the body and mind get the rest it needs.
Below will outline the technique needed to help breathe deeply, for the amazing benefits deep breathing has to offer. This method is often called Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic breathing.
- Lay down on your back, or rest comfortably into a chair (if you’re doing this ensure your back is comfortably straight)
- Breathe out fully to let go off any pressure, just relax.
- Rest your left hand on your belly, right underneath your ribs, and your right hand on your chest.
- Breathe in through your nose and let your belly fill up, and push out against your left hand. Make sure your right hand doesn’t move.
- As you breathe out through your nose, notice your belly coming back in.
- Take a few more deep breathes like so to develop the technique.
This form of breathing allows all your body to enjoy deep oxygenation, which helps to improve mood, energy levels, focus, stress and so much more. The mechanics of how this works, is that the diaphragm, when you breathe deeply, pushes down allowing the lungs to absorb more air.
The significance of diaphragmatic breathing is that shallow breathing can cause a myriad of health issues. Shallow, chest breathing creates unnecessary tensions within our upper bodies, further restricting our ability to breath and often this pressure compromises our health and posture.
The main benefits of diaphragmatic breathing are that they will help provide energy, and high quality blood around your body. The extra oxygenation helps fuel the muscles inside the body for more efficient and effective operation; meaning intense workouts. Diaphragmatic breathing also indicates to the brain to rest and so it’ll drastically reduce stress levels, allowing you to breathe deeply, to lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and ultimately allowing you to relax more deeply. As a consequence of all this, you end up draining way less energy in day to day life (saved energy you would have otherwise spent stressing) and that makes you more energetic.
Scientifically, some of the most common conditions that diaphragmatic breathing helps to treat symptoms of are: high stress, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, sleeplessness, asthma, high blood pressure, tension headaches, heart disease and much more.
Congratulations you can now experience the joy of breathing deeply! Take a deep breath and slowly practice. The more you practice, the more diaphragmatic breathing becomes your natural way of breathing. It takes a lot of conscious practice, but once the habit is set, you’ll naturally be engaging in diaphragmatic breathing and experiencing the wonderful benefits it has to offer, as well as the myriad of symptoms it can help treat.
As an added bonus, try equalling out the counts for the breaths. Take a 4 second inhale, 4 second exhale and repeat that for 2 minutes. Continue based off how you feel. As you develop your ability to breathe deeper, and to slow down your breathe more. Increase the periods, try 5 seconds to 5 seconds, 6 to 6 and so on. Gradually decrease how many breaths you take per minute. As you do, you will notice deeper and deeper states of relaxation.
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Till next time.