Research Paper By Heba Zayan
(Youth Life Coach, EGYPT)
When was the last time you breathed? Of course, it seems a very silly question because as you are reading this now so you are definitely breathing. But this is not the breathing I’m asking about. What I meant is deep breathing, feeling that oxygen is filling your lungs and reaching every cell of your body. So now when was the last time you breathed?
Breathing and its potential effects on our lives, positive and negative, are enormous. Appreciating this enormity is significantly enhanced by learning about the amazing physiology of breathing, which together with understanding breathing as motivated behaviour, can account for the profound and far-reaching effects of breathing on health and performance.
Breathing is different from respiration. Breathing is a behaviour. It is learned, motivated, it can be changed, can be relearned by attention, perception, memory and personal history.
Isn’t it weird that something so important for survival, humans can’t live without yet we are very rarely shown how to do it well? Breathing is such a simple thing for us to do. When you breathe in, you inhale oxygen. When you breathe out, you exhale carbon dioxide. But when done properly it can be so much more, it can be revitalising, energising as well as calming and a lot of other benefits listed below.
Despite the importance of breathing most humans do not pay attention to the way they breathe, they do nothing to control their breathing, and therefore most just breathe badly all the time. They don’t even know it, because it is an involuntary action unless you pay attention to it and breathe voluntarily. You breathe on autopilot, it just takes place in the background, so you don’t have to pay any attention or get involved. Well, this results in your breathing being uncontrolled, shallow, and you only use a fraction of your lungs capacity.
The most common way that people breathe is called Shallow Breathing. Shallow Breathing or sometimes called Chest or Thoracic breathing is where you tend to breathe from the chest, rather than from the abdomen. This creates a shorter and shallower breath with the diaphragm not being used as it should be.
Shallow breathing is detrimental to your health. I’ll give you three reasons, but there are far more.
➡ It leads to an insufficient amount of oxygen entering the body, so oxygen levels are lower than they should be.
➡ It results in energy levels were lower, so you become sluggish and exhausted.
➡ It causes mental and emotional imbalance, so stress levels are higher than they should be.
You take an average of about 15 breaths per minute, 900 breaths an hour, so about 21,600 breaths per day.
So, don’t you owe it to yourself to at least give yourself some time where you breathe properly? You will benefit both physically and emotionally by adopting a proper breathing technique. It is one thing that your mind, body and soul need you to do and to do it properly. By learning proper breathing techniques, you are giving yourself a tool to help you handle your stressful situations and difficult circumstances better as well as one that will see your overall mental and physical health improvement.
You need to adopt a far better way of breathing, called Deep breathing which can increase the body’s cleansing pace by as much as 15 times the normal pace, and this will deliver improvements to your health, physical and mental.
The Benefits of Deep or Diaphragmatic Breathing
The benefits of proper breathing are many. It has been found that people who practice deep breathing only ten minutes a day have better health and an improved disposition. Wondering how deep breathing can benefit you? Here are 13 of the amazing benefits of deep, belly breathing.
The body deals with a lot of toxins; everything from air pollution, to contaminated water, everyday foods and much more. Breathing is the body’s way of releasing those toxins and purifying its systems. When we don’t take deep breaths, the body is less efficient at releasing toxins. This makes the other systems in the body overloaded as they work to detoxify the blood, often leading to illnesses. When you inhale and exhale deeply, the body releases carbon dioxide, and along with with it many toxins.
Shallow breathing is linked to stress and anxiety. In fact, shallow breathing and anxiety disorders often go hand-in-hand. Shallow or constricted breathing occurs when we are in fight-or-flight mode, telling the body that we are unsafe. This results in anxiety, panic, and hyperventilation as the body prepares for danger. You can often see this dramatized in movies and TV shows when people begin breathing rapidly when they are panic-stricken.
The key to alleviating anxiety and stress is to take deep breaths. It fills your body with oxygen, releases tension, and normalizes your heartbeat, creating a feeling of calmness. If you suffer from anxiety or panic disorders, deep breathing can provide relief.
3. Calming Effect
The fastest way to feel calm in any situation is to breathe through the belly. Deep breathing benefits our mental and emotional health because that’s how we’re meant to breathe in the natural state. When we take deep breaths, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a relaxation response. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, just a few minutes of deep breathing will fill your body with oxygen and help you feel calm and relaxed.
4. Feel Energized
When we take deep breaths, more air is drawn into our lungs. Since the lungs help generate maximum blood flow, the proper air supply to the lungs is critical. Improved oxygenation of the blood also results in enhanced metabolism and greater energy. With the proper oxygen supply, all your organs are revitalized, filling you with more energy and vigour each day.
5. Improved Digestion
When the body receives more blood, the organs (including the digestive system) work more efficiently. When your system is detoxified and energized, it helps improve both digestion and appetite. Since our mood is always responsible to a great extent for our appetite and digestion, deep breathing aids in promoting better digestive health through relieving stress and anxiety.
6. Increased Cardiovascular Capacity
Many of us don’t realize that deep breathing is a great exercise for the body. Even if you can’t regularly work out or have health restrictions that prevent you from exercising, you can still get the benefits of exercise simply by practising deep breathing every day. Deep breathing enhances your cardiovascular capacity and burns fat easily. If deep breathing is practised in addition to exercise, it may result in improved cardiovascular capacity.
7. Regulates Weight
Another wonderful benefit of deep breathing is that it helps regulate weight. If you are underweight, proper breathing will supply the tissues and cells with more oxygen. If you are overweight, the oxygen will help burn extra fat of the body. When we take shallow breaths, the body ends up burning glycogen instead of fat. When we take deep breaths, it can help us remain relaxed and burn fat.
8. Improved Posture
Several studies have found that incorrect breathing and incorrect posture are directly related. When your posture isn’t correct, it can be difficult to engage in diaphragmatic breathing. When we deep breathe, it naturally makes us sit up straight or stand taller. This is because filling the lungs with air encourages a better posture. If you’ve never noticed it before, breathing deep will automatically straighten your spine.
9. Mood Elevation
Deep breathing benefits your mood by increasing the production of neurochemicals in the brain, boosting feelings of pleasure and happiness. While shallow breathing can lead to stress and anxiety, deep breathing induces feelings of being happy and relaxed.
10. Improves the Heart’s Health
Have you noticed how your heartbeats slow down when you practice deep breathing? This is because deep breathing makes the lungs stronger and promotes oxygenation of the blood, reducing the load on the heart over time.
11. Sleep Better
The necessity of sleep is well known. An adult needs at least six to seven hours of sleep every night for optimum health and productivity. Deep breathing promotes better sleep by alleviating stress and triggering the relaxation response. When stress is lowered, sleep is improved.
12. Pain Relief
When we are in physical pain, our first response is to hold our breath. But that only increases the feeling of pain. Instead, deep breathing during the pain helps your body to relax.
13. Healthier Organs
Diaphragmatic breathing is an exercise for all organs in the body. With the movement of the diaphragm, organs like the stomach, liver, intestine, heart, and pancreas are massaged, improving their function. Deep breathing also strengthens and tones abdominal muscles.
How to do deep breathing exercises?
There are lots of breathing exercises you can do to help you to relax. The first exercise below—belly breathing—is simple to learn and easy to do. It’s best to start there if you have never done breathing exercises before. The other exercises are more advanced. All of these exercises can help you relax and relieve stress.
➡ Belly breathing
Belly breathing is easy to do and very relaxing. Try this basic exercise anytime you need to relax or relieve stress.
- Sit or lie flat in a comfortable position.
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly going in, and use it to push all the air out.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
After you have mastered belly breathing, you may want to try one of these more advanced breathing exercises. Try, and see which one works best for you:
- 4-7-8 breathing
- Morning breathing
➡ 4-7-8 breathing
This exercise also uses belly breathing to help you relax. You can do this exercise either sitting or lying down.
- To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise.
- Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 4 as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
- Breathe out completely as you silently count from 1 to 8. Try to get all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
- Repeat 3 to 7 times or until you feel calm.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
➡ Morning breathing
Try this exercise when you first get up in the morning to relieve muscle stiffness and clear clogged breathing passages. Then use it throughout the day to relieve back tension.
- From a standing position, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.
- As you inhale slowly and deeply, return to a standing position by rolling up slowing, lifting your head last.
- Hold your breath for just a few seconds in this standing position.
- Exhale slowly as you return to the original position, bending forward from the waist.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
Breathing is free and effortless. It’s something we don’t have to put thought into. It generally doesn’t require any type of equipment and can be done anywhere that oxygen is present.
As it can be done at any place and at any time so coaches can begin their sessions with a kind invitation to their clients to breathe deeply to help them to relax and to start their session in a calm relaxing mood which allows them to open up for better and more fruitful results.
Also during the session, if the coach feels that his client is angry or frustrated or having any negative feelings he can just pause for a few deep breaths and then resume the session with a better-elevated mood.
And always remember; The wisest one-word sentence? Breathe. – Terri Guillemets