Breathing for Health and Wellbeing

How many times a day do we perform the simple act of breathing in and breathing out? Thousands and thousands! And you likely don’t even give it a thought.

Thankfully, it’s a natural process that happens automatically without our attention, but when we do give it our attention, we can improve the mental and physical benefits immensely.

Most of us have a tendency to breathe rapidly and shallowly, only filling the upper third of the chest. You can place your hand on your belly, and next time you breathe in, notice if the belly is moving. When you are fully filling the lungs with air, they expand, pushing down on the diaphragm which forces the belly to expand outward. Some find it easier to do this exercise laying on your back rather than sitting up; you can try it both ways.

It may be helpful to think about the way we fill a glass of water: when you pour the water into a glass, first the lower third of the glass fills, then the middle, then the top. This is the way we want to fill the lungs when we breathe: guiding the breath deep, deep down into the lowest part of the lungs first, then the middle, then the top. If you’re not used to breathing this way, you may notice some sensations in the lower part of your ribcage, muscles stretching that likely haven’t stretched before. With practice, it becomes easier and less noticeable.

Inhale through the nose, so you can take advantage of the defense system provided by your nose hairs to trap harmful debris and keep it out of the body. Exhale through the mouth (like a soft sigh), to release more air at once and help your jaw and tongue relax. With every breath out, you may notice muscular tension releasing from other parts of the body too, like shoulders dropping and facial expression softening.

Now that you’re breathing more deeply, you can slo-o-o-o-ow your breathing down, pacing the speed of the breath as you slowly count to five on the inhalation, and then slowly counting to five (or even longer!) on the exhalation. You can also use a digital tool like “Breathing App” for visual and/or auditory cues to help with your deep breathing.

Even just five deep breaths have significant effects on the mind and the body. Deep breathing has been shown to slow the heart rate, lower your blood pressure, calm anxiety, oxygenate your blood (which improves energy levels and overall immunity), improve sleep, detoxify the body, improve digestion, and so much more. 

What an amazing tool we carry around with us all the time! And best of all, it’s free! Try breathing more deeply and intentionally today and everyday, for ongoing health benefits to your body and your mind.

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