The Art and Benefits of Breathing

by | Sep 11, 2020 | Transformation

Highlights

  • Breathing can be defined as “an efficient integrative body-mind training.
  • Breathing changes your biology – brain, hormonal response, and decreases stress.
  • There is a deeper meaning to breath work it directly effects the flow of energy in the body.
  • There are multiple ways to start and so start simple and then use 4-7-8- technique.

The Art of Breathing

In the western culture, we know that breathing is an integral part of the metabolic process and that is spart of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Most of the processes of ANS is out of our control. However, what we do have control over is our breath and that gives us control over the ANS. Oxygen is the main chemical element of life. Oxygen is the molecule that is inhaled when we breathe in, and carbon dioxide is released when we breathe out. There is a harmonious balance in the body that maintains the perfect acid base balance with the in and out of these molecules. This is also applicable for plants and insects and many other forms of life. [1-3]

In eastern system, the ancient vedic system, breath is known as prana, the life force that sustains us and everything in the macrocosm and the microcosm. Prana is equivalent to Chi on the Traditional Chinese Medicine [5].

Breathing can be defined as “an efficient integrative body-mind training for dealing with stress and psychosomatic conditions [1].” Including breath work not only provides stability in the mind and body but can also lead to emotional resiliency. Moreover, in clinical treatments for those with PTSD, motion disorders, phobias, and or other stress-related emotional disorders breathing is widely used [1,2].

Breathing directly affects various regions and structures of the brains. The cortex the midbrain, and amygdala all involved in thinking, feeling and behavior.

What is Deep Breathing?

Deep breathing, aka diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing or abdominal breathing, consists of slow and deep breaths which strengthens your diaphragm.

With proper breathing, the two lungs on either side of the heart expand outward, this allows oxygen to enter. The small sacs, aka alveoli, are wrapped in blood vessels and the oxygen diffuses into the bloods binding to hemoglobin. Four oxygen molecules can attach to a single red blood cell. Oxygen is then pumped into the heart by the pulmonary artery and is sent to other parts of the body. [1-3]

Breathing imparts a host of benefits: [1-6]

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves sustained attention
  • Decreases cortisol levels
  • Promotes health
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increases heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Improves lung functions
  • Improves cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength
  • Positively effects sympathovagal balance
  • Relaxes you so you can sleep better
  • Lowers your heat rate

Although these benefits are widely known, our stressful lives and fast pace living has altered the natural rhythm of the breath from slow and deep patterns to fast and shallow patterns. With shallow breathing we suffer further complications, such as depleted oxygen to the cells, poor memory, and brain fog. Shallow breathing also leads to faster heart rate, decreased mental performance, and increased heart rate, among many others.

So, you may have heard the saying, when it comes to working out the muscles, if you don’t use it you lose it. Something similar happens with the lungs too. When you don’t use the full potential of the lungs you are signaling your body that it’s not important. Overtime, this leads to weakening of the respiratory muscles. In addition, shallow breathing can also create tension in the upper body, which then contributes to a poor posture.

Shallow Breathing

Shallow breathing occurs when only the upper part of the chest is used for breathing, this results in quick, shallow breaths that failed to expand the lungs and the belly. This often occurs during a fight or flight reaction; however, today our fight or flight can be sitting in traffic, getting upset, getting triggered by an event, or having issues with love ones. Pay close attention to the time when you were really angry, upset, or feeling anxious to assess your body posture and breathing.

In other words, shallow breathing can also be referred to as chest breathing. This could lead to hyperventilation – rapid breathing.

Slow Breathing

Slow breathing is also be referred to as bradypnea. Bradypnea simply means that a person takes fewer breaths per minute than the usual for his age and level of activity. According to experts, breathing rates for an adult, in breaths per minute, are as follows [3]:

  • between 12 and 20 is normal
  • under 12 is abnormally slow
  • over 25 is abnormally fast

If you are taking 12 breaths per minute over 2 minutes, this indicates a slow breath. The average breathing rate differs among individuals and can vary with age and level of activity.

Benefits of Breathing

1. Detoxifies and releases toxins

2. Releases Tension

3. Relaxes the mind/body and brings clarity

4. Alleviates emotional problems

5. Relieves pain.

6. Increases muscle

7. Strengthens the immune system

8. Improves body posture

9. Improves blood quality

10. Boosts Energy levels and Improves Stamina

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Breath work is underutilized and we people and practitioners are just starting to pay incorporate this into practice. Simple 4-7-8 breathing technique is an adaptation from the ancient yogic tradition pranayama’s, for which Dr. Andrew Weil, MD is a big advocate.

Directions:

  • Sit up with a straight spine
  • Place the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth behind your upper teeth.
  • Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale for a count of eight.

This is one cycle of breath. You can do start with a minimum of 4 times a day then build up to 8 or more times a day.  

The reason for placing your tongue on the tip on the roof of the mouth is because there are two master meridians in the body – conception/central vessel and governing vessel.

The central vessel travels up to through the soft tissues of the body and ends at the tip of the tongue. The governing vessel travels up the back through bony tissues over the cranium and ends at the roof of the mouth.

When you place the tip of the tongue to the roof of the most the microcosmic circuit is completed and that allows the energy to flow. The breath work not only calms you but also changes your energy and vibration.

Recommendations

  1. First start paying more attention to how you breathe to increase self awareness.
  2. Start with simple breath work if you are a beginner. It’s improtant to adjust the posture and learn to breathe properly. Yes, even simpler than 4-7-8. You can start with a free guide – sign up for the newsletter on the bottom of the page.
  3. When you are comfortable start adding 4-7-8 breath. Watch the video here for more details and visual instructions.

About Me

Hi, I’m a registered dietitian. It’s my personal mission to offer clear and easy to understand information and actions that will increase your depth of knowledge and make optimizing your health a breeze. Happy reading!

Tags

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This