Whenever we experience stress and fear, the most natural thing many of us do is breathe and relax. While this is a simple action, it is very efficient and brings great relief. Breathing is often an overlooked concept. However, it plays an integral role in our mental and physical wellbeing.
Many relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and tai chi, among others, incorporate deep breathing into their practices. In recent years, there has been extensive research about breathing and its benefits to our overall wellness. And many studies conclude that deep breathing techniques could help create an emotional balance and self-awareness. Read on to learn how to practice this technique.
How Does Deep Breathing Benefit Us?
Research has linked deep breathing with an improvement of symptoms for various conditions. Experts say that breathing exercises can enhance your wellbeing and health even if you’re a normally healthy person. Here are some situations that deep breathing can aid.
- Cancer– combining a breath technique with other cancer treatments helps reduce fatigue and anxiety while improving a person’s quality of sleep and life.
- Diabetes– deep breathing can be used along with other traditional treatments to improve the quality of life and responses to therapy in people with diabetes.
- Respiratory issues– deep breathing is effective in treating asthma, tuberculosis, and cigarette withdrawal.
- Anxiety and depression– this technique has proven effective in dealing with anxiety and depression symptoms among the general population.
- Stress– studies claim that deep breathing can help relieve physical and psychological stress.
- Cardiovascular diseases– for those with hypertension, deep breathing can help lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular conditions.
How Does Deep Breathing Improve Your Wellbeing?
Improves your respiratory system’s performance– mindful breathing requires you to regulate the pace, volume and pauses during your respiration. As a result, it promotes the use of diaphragmatic muscles, which improves respiratory efficiency.
Greater vitality– this technique also has positive effects on the brain’s activity. It is said to increase alpha and theta waves, which enhance life.
Promotes emotional balance and wellness– slow breathing has been linked to positive emotions and behaviors. As such, it facilitates emotional regulation and your overall wellbeing.
Enhances biochemical and metabolic processes– practicing deep breathing after an intense workout can help foster antioxidant response while protecting the impact of free radicals. This translates to improved health and longevity.
Controls your nervous system–A power breath using slow rhythms activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps in making you relax. Plus, it also helps fight stress as it inhibits your sympathetic nervous system.
Things to Consider Before Practicing
- Be in comfortable clothing.
- Avoid eating few hours before practicing. Note that food can put pressure against your lungs and diaphragm, which can make deep breathing hard.
- Ensure a comfortable space and set a convenient time.
- Use your nostrils for breathing always. But for those with a blockage that makes it hard to breathe freely through the nostrils, slightly open your mouth for better ventilation.
- Blow your nose to unblock your nostrils before starting.
- Sit comfortably and maintain the position during the whole practice. You can also lie on your back. But ensure that your spine is straight and you’re not straining your body.
- Avoid deep breathing if you’re feeling unwell.
- If you feel discomfort at any time during the practice, immediately stop it. But, note that it’s normal to experience tingling, cold, heat, itching, tightness, or heaviness.
- Pregnant women or those with various medical conditions or concerns should seek advice from a professional before practicing.
Breathing Exercises to Try
These breathing exercises are arranged progressively. Each one helps you build the strength to practice the next one. Therefore, we advise that you start by doing the first one for at least three sessions until you are familiar with it. Here they are.
Breathing awareness– This introduces one to their breathing pattern and helps them slow down their breathing and enter a relaxed breathing pace. Find a comfortable position that you can sustain for a few minutes, whether in an upright sitting position or lying down. Let go of any tension and bring your focus to your breath. This exercise only involves observing your breath and nothing more. Observe the movements and sensations that result from every inhalation and exhalation. As the air passes in and out of your body, feel the expansion and contractions of your belly and chest.
Three Deep Breathing Steps– deep breathing will only come after experiencing three types of breathing. Note that for these exercises, you should lie on your back if possible. Place your right hand on your navel and your left hand on your chest. Then observe the flow of your breath with these three breathing.
Abdominal– this involves intentionally sending air to your abdomen by allowing it to expand and rise freely. You will feel your right hand rising while your left will likely remain on top of your chest when you inhale. As you exhale, the right hand will come down, and the abdomen will feel relaxed. Repeat these steps for some minutes without straining your stomach. Note that the focus should be to let your belly expand and relax freely. After some repetitions, go back to your natural breathing.
Thoracic– remain in the same position but shift your focus on the ribcage. When you inhale, intentionally send the air to the ribcage and not the abdomen. Allow it to expand and rise freely as your left-hand moves up and down when you breathe in and out. Only engage your chest and not your diaphragm in this breathing. Take slow and deep breaths without moving your right hand. Repeat this pattern for a few minutes.
Clavicular breathing– once the ribcage is fully expanded, now intentionally send the air to your lung’s upper section at your neck’s base. You should feel your collarbone and shoulders rising gently to create space for the extra air. Then slowly breathe out, allowing the shoulders and collarbone to drop first and then your ribcage to relax. Do this for some minutes, then go back to your natural breathing.
Yogic– lie back and place one hand on the belly and the other on your chest. You can also do this exercise while sited, but it requires some experience. Begin by concentrating on your natural breath, then practice the three types of breathing in that sequence. After, breathe in and intentionally sends air to your stomach by letting it expand and rise freely. Continue inhaling and think of sending air to your ribcage also to allow it to develop fully. Then, inhale any amount of air you can and send it to your collarbone and shoulders for them to rise. After beginning to exhale by dropping your shoulders and collarbone slowly, then the ribcage, and finally let out the air in your abdomen. Continue this breathing for a few minutes while paying attention to how your hands rise and fall as you breathe. You can even begin counting as you inhale and exhale once you get comfortable. For instance, for each inhales and exhale, you can count up to four. After some repetitions, go back to your natural breathing.
Does Deep Breathing Work for Stress and Anxiety?
The vagus nerve transfers the positive effects of slow breathing to the autonomic nervous system. When we breathe slowly, it increases our vagal response within our respiratory system and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. The vagus nerve then delivers information from these systems to our central nervous system, which controls our psychological responses and behavior. It’s why deep breathing is encouraged in psychological and physiological spheres.
Research says that various breathing patterns, heart activity, and parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous system responses bring out different emotions. Experts argue that deep breathing can prevent sympathetic activity while increasing parasympathetic responses. As a result, you’ll experience less stressful emotions and more positive ones.
Additionally, during deep breathing, your cardiovascular system and respiratory system synchronize. That results from a low heart rate and paced breathing, which takes a ratio of 4:5 heartbeats per breath. This synchronization is said to regulate your autonomic nervous response, which leads to positive emotions while reducing anxiety.
So How Do You Practice Deep Breathing?
Breathing techniques usually incorporate four elements: inhalation, exhalation, internal breath retention, and external breath retention. Experts advise that you begin by mastering inhalation and exhalation to help strengthen your respiratory and nervous systems. Breathing can clean, modulate and activate the Nadis (energy channels in the body), leading to mental and physical wellness. When you master these two elements, you can then incorporate internal and external retention.
Breath Techniques from Yoga and Meditation
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Also called Nadi shodana pranayama, it is considered balancing breathing. It cleans your energy body channels through Ida (left nostril) and Pingala (right nostril). Research points out that this technique helps improve the functioning of your cognitive, cardiovascular, and autonomic systems.
Here the breathing patterning includes external breath retention. You’ll imagine each cycle of breath as a triangle of ratio 4:4:4 for inhaling, holding, and exhaling. You can increase the ratio to 4:8:8 once you become an expert. Longer breath retention is more relaxing, uses less oxygen, and reduces metabolic rates.
This technique incorporates both internal and external breath retention. One imagines their breath cycle as a square in a ratio of 1:1:1:1 for inhaling, holding in, exhaling, and holding out. With this method, your body can relax more and save energy. Square breathing also helps get rid of muscle fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms caused by stress.
Imagination and Breathing
Imagination during breathing is essential as it allows you to create positive situations and suitable conditions for the mind. Visualization helps you connect between your dreams and desires. As such, it relaxes the mind and your body and ultimately offers relief to conditions like sneezing, itchiness, and difficulty breathing. Apart from imagining a calm and beautiful place, you can also visualize your designed health. Individuals tend to imagine the whole breathing process and the organs involved being in total harmony. Visualization can also help relieve some skin allergies like eczema. According to research, the following imagination techniques help boost your immunity system.
It’s best for internal harmony. It inhibits the flow of negative thoughts and emotions while helping you manage your stress and anxiety levels. When you meditate, you explore your inner feelings and states, thus increase self-awareness. This technique also enables you to connect deeper with your spiritual world. It can also reduce blood pressure and alleviate chronic pain. When practiced regularly, it’s said to improve a person’s physical and psychological wellness.
Once you’re done with your breathing exercises, lie on your back, spreading your legs slightly and with your palms facing the ceiling. Try to relax all your body parts, including legs, feet, pelvic, arms, chest, shoulders, neck, etc. Whenever you breathe out, see it as releasing tension. However, don’t take the focus out of your breathing. If you have disturbing thoughts, imagine them floating over when you exhale.
Why Does a Relaxing Environment Matter?
Breathing, mindfulness, visualization, and meditation practices should be done in a relaxing environment. Ensure that it’s a peaceful space where there’s no interruption. You can even place a “no disturb” sign on your door. The temperature should also be comfortable, not too cold or too hot. Additionally, use soft lighting from candles or a blue or green lamp. Also, it’s advisable to wear loose soft, comfortable clothing. You can even light burning incense or add some essential oils to your aromatherapy pot to make the environment more comfortable. And if you like, you can play soft music or sounds of nature like chirping birds, flowing water, or wind blowing in the background.
Feel Calmer with the Use of Breathing Techniques and Zion Health Products
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Deep breathing is linked to several benefits for healthy individuals and those with some clinical conditions. It’s generally a cost-effective method that supplies one with pure oxygen. Breathing exercises take a short time and can be practiced by anyone at any time. While breathing is an involuntary behavior, one can train it to improve their breathing habits and patterns and bring an emotional balance in their life.
Now that you know more about the importance of deep breathing, along with the tools we mentioned, you can use Zion Health Products as a helpful ally in focusing your mind and opening your airways. You will feel more focused, relaxed, calm and at one with your inner self.
All Zion Health products are vegan, organic, contain no parabens, are made with all-natural ingredients and are cruelty-free.