Deep breathing, also known as abdominal breathing or belly breathing, is a great stress reliever. It releases endorphins the feel-good hormones and natural pain killers, throughout the body and helps to reduce stress reactions and negative effects.
Unfortunately, because of today’s highly stressful lives, deep breathing has for most people become a lost ability. Shallow "chest breathing" has instead become relatively normal for most Americans. Shallow breathing, “chest breathing” is the drawing of minimal breath into the lungs, usually by drawing air into the chest area using the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm.
I have found it most noticeable when I ask patients to take a deep breath, invariably as they take in a breath their shoulders go up (a sure sign of shallow breathing). Take in a deep breath now. Are your shoulders going up or is your belly (abdomen) going out?
Shallow breathing decreases the diaphragm's range of motion. The diaphragm is a sheet of internal skeletal muscle that extends across the bottom of the chest cavity, located under the lungs. Like any muscle that is not stretched regularly, it will tighten and inhibit the ability to take in a deep breath. Chest muscles also become tighter.
When this happens the lower part of the lungs are not inflated well, which decreases oxygen intake. It can also make you feel short of breath which increases tension and anxiety. Also when you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you breathe shallower and this can create a vicious cycle.
With shallow breathing the less oxygen you take in to your lungs, the fewer red blood cells your body will make. Red blood cells are the vehicles that carry the oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body including the brain and heart. This is why people who have chronic anxiety, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more likely to become anemic (depleted Red Blood Cells) and fatigued. Lack of oxygen affects all of our body functions, including and especially the brain. The red blood cells also help carry away waste products.
Your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. When you exhale air you release carbon dioxide a natural waste product of your body's metabolism. If you are not breathing effectively, you are not properly ridding your body of its toxins.
With just a little effort, deep breathing can become an easy and healthy part of your daily life. Start by connecting deep breathing exercises to activities you do regularly such as getting in & out of bed, when stopped at a red light, waiting in a long line or waiting in the Doctor’s office, etc. Also remember to breathe deep whenever you are feeling stressed, angry, anxious or overly emotional. It will calm you down, reduce your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure!
Daily Breathing Exercise:
- Breathe in slowly and if you want count to five while you draw the air in through your nose. Your belly (abdomen) should extend out like a big balloon. Pay attention that your shoulders are not going up.
- Hold the breath for approximately 3 seconds, then try to take in just a little more, hold it another second or two and then release slowly through your mouth. Don’t hyperventilate, take it easy particularly if you have breathing problems like asthma or COPD.
- If you can, do 10 deep breaths, however even 3 is better than none.
- It is more to consistently practice deep breathing every day.
Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to improve your health and decrease your stress. You can do it anywhere, any time, takes very little effort and best of all it costs nothing! Best of all it is beneficial for everyone including children and the elderly.
Please share this information with family, friends and co-workers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or direct them to my blog post and help create a healthier community.
Jane Jansen Naturopath Tree of Life Wellness Center
Host Holistic Healthline Radio