What are deep breathing exercises?
Deep breathing, also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing, is a simple way to clear your mind and ease stress. Drawing in extra oxygen does wonders for the mind and body. It cleanses, opens, and soothes different parts of our being.
We all breathe in and out every day, but when was the last time you took a deep breath? Most people don't do it as often as they think, but deep breathing is a convenient tool to help you combat stress, anxiety, reduce pain, and even lower your blood pressure.
Top 8 Benefits of Deep Breathing Exercises
Check out these top benefits of deep breathing from therapist Andrea Watkins at Urban Balance.
1. Decreases stress, increases calm. By taking deep breaths, your heart rate slows, more oxygen enters our blood stream and ultimately communicates with the brain to relax. Deep breathing also ups your endorphins, the “feel good” chemical.
2. Relieves pain. When the body releases endorphins, not only they help you feel good, but they combat pain too.
3. Stimulates the lymphatic system (detoxifies the body). Breathing is in charge of 70% of cleansing the body of toxins (the other 30% is through bladder and bowels). If you do not breathe fully, your body must work overtime to release these toxins.
4. Improves immunity. When your blood is fully oxygenated, it carries and absorbs nutrients and vitamins more efficiently. Essentially, the cleaner the blood, the harder it is for illnesses to stay in your system.
5. Increases energy. The more oxygen that is in the blood, the better your body functions. It also improves stamina.
6. Lowers blood pressure. As your muscles relax, your blood vessels dilate, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Deep breathing also slows and regulates the heart rate, which also helps lower your blood pressure.
7. Improves digestion. The more you breathe deep, the healthier blood flow you will produce, which promotes your organs to function more effectively, including your intestines.
8. Helps correct body posture. Next time you breathe in, notice that you simultaneously lengthen and straighten your spine. In order to take a deep breath in, your lungs take up maximum space, your diaphragm pulls down, so in turn your torso straightens in order for this to be possible.
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So, how is deep breathing achieved?
Just like any exercise, deep breathing takes a bit of practice before you start noticing the benefits of its effects. With deep breathing, there are different types of techniques that you can use to achieve a positive result.
The 4-7-8 Method
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.
Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
1. Empty the lungs of air
2. Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
3. Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
4. Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
5. Repeat the cycle up to 4 times.
Check out the video below for a more thorough explanation from Dr Andrew Weil:
The Diaphragmatic Breathing Method
The Diaphragmatic Breathing exercise emphasises feeling connected to your body. It requires laying down, so make sure you have a comfortable spot to do lie before trying this. Take some time out of your day to practice this method by doing the following:
1. Lie down on a comfortable surface with your legs spread comfortably and your arms relaxed alongside your body. Feel and connect with the ground beneath your body, placing both hands on your lower abdominal, just below your rib cage.
2. Start by focusing on the inhale and exhale and notice the rise of the inhale and the fall of the exhale. Breathing in through your nose, your belly rises, and breathing out through your nose, the belly comes down. Allow there to be a pause between each breath.
3. Can you feel the breath in your belly? If not, try bending your knees, keeping your feet on the ground. This will help the breath to come down into the lower abdominal.
Can you feel the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe? Imagine as you inhale that there is a balloon inside or a ball of light expanding with each breath. This is a deep diaphragmatic breath.
More Deep Breathing Exercises
Mindful Breathing. This involves becoming aware of your breath and focusing on it. It does not involve trying to change the way you breathe. However, the act of focusing on the breath usually slows down breathing patterns, making you feel more relaxed. As you focus on how air moves in and out through your lungs, mouth and nose, it becomes a form of calming meditation.
Mantra Breathing. This technique makes use of a mantra to help focus on your breath. A mantra is a phrase or word that you repeat to yourself to create focus. As you repeat it, you become able to relax and meditate.
Square Breathing. This employs visualization to create focus. As you inhale, visualize one side of a square. Then, visualize the next side of the square as you exhale. Repeat the process until you have imagined each side of a square.
Nostril Breathing. This technique can help to reduce agitation and anxiety. As you breathe you close off one nostril and take air in slowly through the other. Then switch, closing off the second nostril while breathing through the first. Repeat the process until you begin to feel calmer.
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