My friend Marianne and I were discussing last night how everyone thinks breathing is automatic and we really don’t have to think about it or care how we naturally breathe. BOY, we are all taking breathing for granted! It does come naturally and we hardly notice our breathing all day. The fact is, automatic breathing is shallow breathing, just enough to keep us going. There are a lot of health benefits to deep breathing.
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Here are a few examples of those healthful benefits from Dr. Leigh Connealy, per research studies:
- Ten minutes of deep, diaphragmatic breathing after a meal reduced blood sugar levels, increased insulin, and decreased production of damaging free radicals. A similar study with athletes found that deep breathing after an exhaustive training session resulted in less exercise-produced free radicals.
- Fibromyalgia patients experienced significantly less pain when using deep, slow breathing.
- Home-based deep breathing training minimized depressed symptoms in a group of patients with heart disease.
- A type of deep breathing used in yoga has been found helpful in treating depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a related study, deep breathing during yoga practice improved breathing in patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- In a clinical trial that compared the effects of mental relaxation exercises with slow breathing on patients who have high blood pressure, the slow-breathing group achieved the best results in reducing blood pressure.
As you can see, if you flip these study results, breathing problems are linked to a long list of health issues.
According to Dr. Connealy, when we think of breathing, we tend to think of lungs. She states that more is actually involved. Other muscles are to be included, such as the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. One of the basics of proper breathing involves expansion and contraction of the diaphragm -- in other words, letting our tummy stick out. It will take a little practice to get the hang of it.
Dr. Connealy suggests the best way to start practicing is to lie on the floor (use a mat or towel if you like). Let your back relax into the floor. Use a pillow under your knees if you feel uncomfortable. Keep your shoulders flat, as though you are standing up straight, and stretch your torso and neck into a comfortable position. Don’t overdo it, just lie back, so your chest is open and your back feels relaxed and comfortable.
Focus inhaling through your nose to allow the incoming air to be filtered and warmed on its way to your lungs. Place your hands on your tummy so that when you inhale slowly through your nose, you make an effort to push your stomach out and not your upper chest. Your hands should feel your stomach lifting. When you’ve filled your lungs, slowly squeeze your stomach back in toward your spine, forcing the air out of your lungs as you exhale through your mouth. It should take longer to exhale than to inhale.
Practice for only a minute or two at a time, to let your body become accustomed to the extra oxygen. If you feel lightheaded, it just means that you are not use to deep breathing. Stop and try again later. It will take a little practice, but give it time and allow your diaphragm to strengthen.
If you are having trouble with the concept, watch a sleeping baby breathing and you’ll see how effortless belly breathing can be. Once you understand and have learned the process, you’ll be able to skip lying on the floor and practice deep breathing at your desk, while you are walking, or watching TV. Don’t deep breath in polluted areas though. Your lungs don’t need those toxins!!
Practice often! Here's to your health!
Pictures by Microsoft.
The Lord heals your diseases, redeems your life from the pit, satisfies you with good, shows compassion to his children, and knows your frame. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Psalm 103: 3-14