Deep breathing helps us to calm our nerves, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety. Breathing well to live better is a cornerstone of physical and mental wellbeing that can reclaim our attention between the hurry and the pressures that we live with. At the same time, something just as interesting is that this type of breathing allows us to connect much better with ourselves, with our basic necessities…
There are many cultures that see the process of breathing as more than just an – apparently – involuntary act that keeps us alive and to which we barely need to pay attention. Many of us form part of that hyperventilating world that suddenly, when it feels the need to practice yoga, Mindfulness, or Tai-Chi becomes conscious that breathing is something much more than just taking in air and pushing it out again.
In that rhythmic process of expansion and contraction, breathing also represents the constant duality of nature, like day and night, like being awake and sleeping, like the calm and the storm, spring and winter… It is a cycle that has an order and a time, an inner music and incredible benefits if done well.
The majority of us breath quickly and superficially, leaving the capacity of our lungs untapped, as they barely expand. Normally, we breathe 17 or 18 times per minute. However, when we suffer anxiety or stress, that frequency of breathing takes off, and is able to reach even 30 breaths per minute. It is a risk. It’s like living with the sword of Damocles over our head, generating a progressive imbalance that affects our blood pressure, our immune system, and our muscles, including our mind.
Nonetheless, something as simple as “breathing deeply” and doing it with control generates a system-wide benefit, balancing multiple proceses and providing a way our for many of the negative emotions torment us day in and day out.
So what if we learn to breathe well in order to live better?
Deep, slow, and deliberate breathing
There is a very interesting fact that at least deserves consideration: breathing is one of the few bodily functions that we do voluntarily just as involuntarily. This is a wonderful opportunity to control our body, improving – if we practice this control in a smart way – our quality of life.
Think about how voluntary and conscious breathing can influence how we breathe when we do it automatically. In this way, we improve our blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, digestion and many other bodily functions.
Now, it is very possible that one of our readers will wonder if there is any scientific evidence that deep breathing is really as positive and beneficial as Eastern cultures say. But there is some evidence, such as the one published in the scientific journal “Harvard Health“, that what is most beneficial to our body is slow breathing.
When we breath deeply, but above all slowly, we get oxygen to truly reach the cells and keep the level of blood CO2 from dropping. At the same time, it’s been shown that the type of breathing that most benefits us is diaphragmatic breathing: this is when we breathe in deeply through the nose and fill our lungs, until the bottommost part of our abdomen lifts.
The benefits of deep breathing
At one point in our life, everyone has been told by someone that “it’s ok, just breathe deeply”. It’s like a spell, like a magic word that the moment that we do it, it comforts us, and is an almost immediate relief that calms the body and reorganizes the mind. This strategy would have many more benefits if we got used to doing this daily, so that it becomes a habit.
These are some of the changes you would see:
- Your cellular metabolism in your body would improve.
- We would be able to better manage stress and anxiety.
- We would sleep better.
- Our digestive system would function better.
- We would feel less muscle pain and have less headaches and migraines.
- We would concentrate better on our tasks.
- We would better our posture and have less back pain.
- We would learn to be more centered on the “here and now”.
Learn to breathe deeply
Just as we mentioned at the beginning, people tend to breathe around 16 to 17 times per minute. Our objective with deep breathing is to breathe 10 times per minute. Of course, it’s not expected that you would be able to do this on the first try, but little by little, day by day, you would be able to achieve this number, and thereby invest in your wellbeing.
First, look for a comfortable place to sit where you can straighten your back. Your clothing should be comfortable, leaving space around your waist and stomac, without pressure from jeans or belts.
- Put your chest forward, relax your shoulders, and let your gaze settle.
- Now, place one hand on your chest, and another on your stomach.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply for 4 seconds.
- When you do this, you should feel that your hand on your stomach moves our much more than the hand on your chest.
- Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then exhale audibly through your mouth for 7 seconds.
Start with this rhythm, and as you maintain this you can start adjusting the number of seconds for each step until you are able to achieve an average of 10 breaths per minute. Little by little, you will start to see benefits in your physical health, as well as a new level of mental clarity that will help you face each day.
Don’t think twice about starting today.