But do it the right way!
Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation. – Dan Brule
The average person takes around 22,000 breaths per day. Most of us don’t think about even one of those 22,000. Fortunately for us, they take place involuntarily. But breathing is a unique bodily function unlike reproduction, elimination and digestion in that it can also be controlled voluntarily. How are you breathing now as you read this? Chances are you have shallow in-breaths followed by an out-breath and a short pause. This is normal breathing at rest called eupnea.
Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, involves consciously using your diaphragm to take deep breaths. This type of breathing allows you to use your lungs at 100% capacity.
There are many benefits of deep breathing. It can help…
- Reduce stress and anxiety-See note below
- Relieve pain
- Detoxify the body
- Improve immunity
- Increase energy
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Improve digestion
- Support correct posture*
Diaphragmatic breathing is also used to help with the treatment of asthma and COPD.
We’ve all heard someone say “Take a deep breath” or we may have even said it to someone else. It usually means calm down and is often spoken in a pejorative sense. Chances are it doesn’t lead to deep breathing which in fact is what might be needed at such times. That’s because deep breathing is a technique that needs to be learned and practiced to be effective.
Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing states “For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women and men tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.”
So how in fact do we do deep breathing correctly to achieve all of the benefits listed above…
Kristoffer Rhoads, a clinical neuropsychologist who treats patients at the UW Medicine Memory & Brain Wellness Center at Harborview Medical Center teaches the technique in a way that helped me to understand it more fully.
Sit comfortably, closing your eyes and imagining an extremely stressful situation. Notice how your body responds. Things you might notice are your chest tightening, your breathing becoming shallower and your heart rate increasing.
Pat attention to your breath now. Focus on breathing from your stomach Place your hands on your belly and push it out every time you inhale. Begin taking longer breaths, counting to at least three for each inhalation and exhalation. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you practice you’ll start to observe your body becoming more relaxed.
Two of my favorite ways to practice deep breathing are the 4-7-8 technique explained here or box breathing which involves breathing in for a designated time, followed by holding, breathing out and holding again each for the same duration.
Resources to help with deep breathing…
You’ll find additional breathing techniques to practice here. There’s a science to this and it continues to develop. Proper breathing technique(both voluntary and involuntary) is critical to good health.
Apps such as Breathwrk, iBreathe, and Breathe+ may be able to help you develop a deep breathing practice.
So find a practice that works for YOU!
And you also can use your new skills when you practice meditation, yoga, Tai chi, and Qi Gong to enhance the experience.
If you’d like to dive further into the art and research around breathing, you might like one of the following books:
The Power of Breathwork-Jennifer Patterson
Just Breathe-Dan Brule
A Practical Guide To Breathwork-Jesse Coomer
Note: Although deep breathing can help relieve stress and anxiety, if used incorrectly or done incorrectly, deep breathing can worsen anxiety. It’s important to consult with your physician or other health care provider in these cases.
Disclaimer: This website and its contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any illness or disease.
The information provided on this website is for general educational purposes, has not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA and is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional, licensed dietitian or nutritionist.
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