The act of breathing comes naturally to almost everyone, and it’s not something we think about very often. The average person takes around 22,000 breaths a day, according to the Lung Association, unless you have a respiratory illness that affects you. The rate at which you breathe varies depending on your age, weight, and exercise levels, but the most common is 12 to 18 breaths per minute.
Our reasons for breathing are to supply oxygen through our blood to the muscles and tissues, and the expulsion of carbon dioxide from our bodies back into the atmosphere. Breathing also has several other purposes and benefits, however, which we can optimize to support good health if we know how.
What Breathing Does
The way you breathe can affect your whole body. It helps to regulate vital functions such as your heart rate and blood pressure. When your blood is well-oxygenated, it ensures better microcirculation and smoother functioning of your vital organs, including the immune system. It can also reinforce proper muscle movement to put less stress on your body as you go about your daily activities.
The Top 10 Benefits of Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is an age-old method of inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose so that your lungs fill and your belly expands. Studies show that this kind of breathing enables your body to increase the quantity of oxygen it exchanges with outgoing carbon dioxide. This slows down your heart rate, reduces stress and lowers your blood pressure.
In medicine, it’s believed three deep breaths are enough to provide significant benefits to your body. Research shows the advantages of doing daily deep breathing exercises include:
1. Fighting Pain
When you breathe deeply it causes your body to release endorphins, which are also known as “feel-good” hormones. These help to fight pain and act as a natural analgesic for the body.
2. Better Blood Flow
The action of taking deep breaths, holding and then releasing them causes your diaphragm to move up and down, which removes toxins from your system and promotes better blood flow.
3. Improves Immunity
When you bring fresh oxygen into your system and release toxins and carbon dioxide, it boosts the oxygenation of your bloodstream. This makes your organs function more smoothly, which helps the immune system to fight off infection. It also helps you to absorb vitamins and nutrients better, contributing to faster recovery when you’re sick.
4. Alleviates Anxiety
Because deep breathing slows down your heart rate, the body is able to take in more oxygen than it does with shallow breathing. In addition to lowering cortisol levels and increasing the endorphins, this sends signals to your brain to wind down. Instead of going 90 miles a minute, your mind is able to think more rationally, avoid panic and reduce anxiety and depression.
5. Supports Sleep
Taking long, slow, deep breaths tells your body to detox and brings you a sensation of calm that can help you to sleep better. This is the reason why breathing exercises in combination with meditation are often suggested for treatment of insomnia in patients.
6. Gives Extra Energy
Better sleep along with more oxygen in the blood stream, increased absorption of nutrients, and lower stress levels all help to make you feel better. This enables you to move faster, build physical and mental strength and ultimately achieve more in your life thanks to the extra energy delivered by the combined effect.
7. Promotes Posture
Poor posture can cause you endless chronic pain, bone and body deformities, and internal problems resulting from the cramped position of your organs. Often, it’s related to incorrect breathing. When you fill your lungs with air, it helps to automatically straighten your spine. This improves your posture while making space internally for everything to reside where it belongs.
8. Reduces Inflammation
There are many medical theories about acidity in the body, which suggest diseases like cancer only thrive in systems that are highly acidic. Regular deep breathing encourages alkalinity while reducing stress and the acidity that causes inflammation.
9. Lymphatic Support
The lymphatic system is responsible for detoxifying the body, but it needs to be fully active to do so. Otherwise, carbon dioxide and other toxins aren’t expelled as they should be and this causes all our systems to become sluggish and work less than effectively. Deep breathing helps to get the lymph flowing properly, which enables your body to detoxify and expel the waste that can lead to illness.
10. Improved Digestion
Deep breathing supplies increased oxygen to all parts of the body, including the digestive system. This makes it work more efficiently and encourages intestinal actions, resulting in a calmer nervous system, optimal digestion and better overall wellness.
Boost Deep Breathing with Practice
Your lung capacity and function are at their maximum during the mid-20s, and after that both start to decrease with age. Medical conditions can speed this up, but breathing exercises can help you to maintain and increase your capacity, keep your lungs healthy and give your body the oxygen it needs.
- Relax your shoulders, sit down or lie back so you are comfortable. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
- Inhale through your nose for two to three seconds. Be aware of the air moving down into your abdomen and your stomach expanding until it’s fully distended. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
- Breathe out for two seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
- Repeat this at least three times on each occasion.
This type of breathing can slow down your air intake, which reduces the work involved in breathing by keeping your airways open longer. This makes it easier for your lungs to function and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It’s often easier for beginners and you can do it anywhere and anytime.
- Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
- Purse your lips as if you’re pouting or about to blow on something.
- Breathe out as slowly as possible through the pursed lips. You should take twice as long to expel the breath as you did to inhale it.
- Perform five or more repetitions of this exercise each time you do it, several times a day.
We can actively control our body’s exchange of air through intentional breathing, which means it’s possible to use the various techniques to boost microcirculation, encourage general well-being, healing, and optimal good health without resorting to medications.
Your breath is an amazing tool that you can use as often as you want, in any setting or circumstance. Even in public you can privately use this practice to improve your health on a daily basis.