Unlock the Benefits of Breathing Deeply

Published on
November 22, 2023

As an Introspective Breathwork® Therapist, I often encounter puzzled expressions when I express the idea that the pathway to happiness is found as one of the many benefits of breathing deeply. Common responses I receive include variations of 'I breathe all the time,' prompting the question: What exactly am I talking about?  As our conversation progresses, there typically comes a moment of realization, where what I'm conveying suddenly clicks for the listener. At that point, they light up with hope and enthusiasm, recognizing the potential of how breathwork, particularly the practice of deep breathing, can serve as a powerful support for personal transformation.

The benefits of breathing deeply extend far beyond a momentary sense of calm. This article explores the profound impact that deep breathing can have on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, with valuable insights from One Breath Institute.

Understanding the Benefits of Breathing Deeply

Before diving into the myriad benefits of deep breathing, let's take a moment to understand what it entails. Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing.  There are different ways we can breathe deeply, which generally involve taking full, slow breaths.  This may include inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your diaphragm to fully expand, and exhaling slowly through your nose or mouth. This intentional and mindful breathing technique engages the diaphragm, the muscle located at the base of the lungs, promoting a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.  

Another option is breathing deeply in and out through the mouth, using a technique called ‘Conscious Connected Breathwork’ that is used specifically for deeper levels of healing.  We all carry unresolved emotions and stress within our bodies, often unconsciously. Conscious connected breathwork facilitates emotional release and processing of these emotions and can be a gateway to exploring and shifting our self-limiting beliefs. As we become more present through the breath, we often identify thought patterns that no longer serve us. This awareness opens the door to intentional change and personal growth.

For now, let’s return to the many benefits of breathing deeply through the nose. 

Physical Benefits

Improved Oxygenation: Deep breathing allows for a more efficient exchange of gasses in the lungs. As you breathe deeply, your diaphragm contracts, creating more space for your lungs to expand. This enables a greater intake of oxygen, which is vital for the functioning of every cell in your body. Improved oxygenation enhances energy levels, promotes cell repair, and supports overall physical health.

Stress Reduction and the Relaxation Response: Engaging in deep breathing triggers the body's relaxation response, a natural antidote to the stress-induced ‘fight or flight’ response. When you breathe deeply and rhythmically, your body activates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. This not only promotes relaxation but also helps in managing chronic stress, reducing the risk of stress-related health issues.

Enhanced Respiratory Function: Regular practice of deep breathing strengthens the respiratory muscles and improves lung capacity. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Deep breathing exercises can help increase the efficiency of breathing, making it easier for individuals with respiratory challenges to take in an adequate amount of oxygen.

Mental and Emotional Benefits

Stress and Anxiety Management: Deep breathing is a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. By activating the relaxation response, it helps calm the mind and reduce the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. Integrating deep breathing into your daily routine can serve as a valuable mechanism for self-regulation, providing a sense of calm and balance even in the face of life's challenges.

Improved Focus and Concentration: The increased oxygen flow to the brain resulting from deep breathing has a direct impact on cognitive function. Adequate oxygen levels are essential for maintaining optimal brain function, including concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills. Taking a few minutes to engage in deep breathing can be a valuable productivity hack, enhancing your ability to stay focused and alert.  Fun fact: Did you know that a significant 20% of the oxygen we inhale is directed to our brain? It turns out that sometimes the urge to yawn isn't just a sign of tiredness; it can also be our body's way of responding to the brain's increased demand for oxygen.

Mood Regulation: Breathing deeply has been linked to improved mood and emotional well-being. The rhythmic and intentional nature of deep breathing encourages mindfulness, grounding you in the present moment. This mindfulness practice can help regulate emotions, reduce feelings of irritability, and contribute to an overall positive outlook on life.

Tips from One Breath Institute

Consider incorporating these practices to begin or enhance your practice of breathing deeply:

Diaphragmatic Breathing: To practice, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen, or belly, to expand. Feel your diaphragm working. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen contract. This technique maximizes the engagement of the diaphragm for optimal results, and supports relaxation by activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), part of our Autonomic Nervous System.

Rhythmic Breath Counts: Incorporating breath counts into your deep breathing practice can be soothing and is a way to remain present and aware of your breath. Simply count the length of your inhale, exhale, and pauses as you breathe. Notice if your breath slows down or changes in any way as you practice in the moment, and over a period of time of regularly practicing. Adjust the counts to suit your comfort. Extend the exhalation phase for a more profound relaxation response.

Mindful Breath Awareness: Breath awareness is a gateway to establishing a deeper awareness of the self and any emotions stored within the body, and is a cornerstone of our approach at One Breath Institute. As you engage in deep breathing, focus your attention on the sensations of each breath—the cool inhalation, the pause, and the warm exhalation. This mindful awareness enhances the meditative aspect of deep breathing, increases present moment awareness of the emotional and physical state of being, promotes mental clarity and a deeper sense of peace.

Integrating Deep Breathing into Your Routine

Committing to a Daily Practice Incorporating just a few minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine has the power to profoundly change your life. Set aside a few minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath. Practicing breathing deeply for a few minutes in the morning—instead of looking at a device-–sets the tone for your day. You can do this practice while drinking your morning coffee or tea, and add the mindfulness practice of truly enjoying your morning beverage (the smell, taste, warmth). Notice the thoughts that keep coming, and each time return your awareness to your breath. When engaging with an external source first thing in the morning, like the news, email, text messages, social media, etc., the brain gets hijacked and we shift into a reactive state.  

The following is an excerpt from this Forbes article: Why You Should Stop Checking Your Phone in the Morning, and What to Do Instead (spoiler: it’s deep breathing)

“What Checking Your Phone Does To Your Brain:

When you first wake up in the morning your brain switches from delta waves, which occur in a deep sleep state, to theta waves, which occur during a sort of daydreamy state. The brain then moves to produce alpha waves when you are awake but are relaxed and not processing much information.

Now, by grabbing your phone first thing and immediately diving into the online world, you force your body to skip the important theta and alpha stages and go straight from the delta stage to being wide awake and alert (also known as the beta state).

Scientific American reports that "the ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt." This makes theta state an ideal time to tap into your subconscious mind to visualize what you want and help your brain drive your actions forward toward achieving your vision.

In skipping these states and checking your phone right after waking up you are priming your brain for distraction. Seeing or reading something negative first thing in the morning can trigger your stress response and put you on edge for the rest of the day.”

As you can see, starting your day with the simple practice of breathing deeply supports a calm transition from sleep to waking life and allows you the opportunity to become more mindful of how you’d like to engage with the day ahead.

Take a Deep Breath

The benefits of breathing deeply extend far beyond a momentary sense of calm. Incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine by implementing one of the tips from One Breath Institute will enable you to unlock a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional advantages (you can find a few more techniques here). From improving oxygenation and respiratory function to managing stress and enhancing cognitive performance, the transformative power of deep breathing is accessible to everyone.

Take a moment each day to breathe deeply, connect with your body and mind, and reap the numerous rewards of this simple yet profound practice. Your well-being deserves it.

This article was all about: Unlock the Benefits of Breathing Deeply

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