I think the human body is quite amazing. We don’t always take the best care of it, yet it is so resilient. I think because your body truly wants to be happy. A simple way we can help our own body to be strong and energized is as simple as taking a calm deep breath. It has been studied and shown that the rhythm and the depth of your breath actually directly affects both your state of mind and the overall health of your body.
If you have practiced yoga, or have taken any other mindful movement class, you may have heard the instructors praises for deep breath or diaphragmatic breathing, what this means is engaging the entire rib cage and abdominal muscles (not just the chest and shoulders) while staying mindful. A proper breath should be deep and full, using the respiratory muscles of the chest and also the belly, lower rib cage, and lower, middle and upper back. It feels strange at first but if you watch a baby sleeping you will notice his belly filling with breath rather than just his chest. When people try to take a deep breath, many of us do the exact opposite, we suck in our bellies, raise our shoulders, and try to fill our chest.
A good thing about deep breathing is you can do it anywhere and anytime and it does not cost a thing! And who doesn’t love free? Take 5 minutes once or twice a day to breath, slowly, deeply, consciously, this can make a huge difference. When you catch yourself breathing a shallow breath into your chest or not completely exhaling , take a few deep breaths to remind yourself what it should be like.
The Ayurvedic belief is: no breath, no life and no energy! Your breath is a carrier of Prana. Prana is the Energy that gives life to the body. In India, pranayama is a regular part of Yoga practice. Pranayama which literally means control of the life force, for thousands of years has been used in affecting both the mind and body.
This is how amazing the human body is: When we breathe fully and deeply as we should, the diaphragm actually massages the liver, stomach, and other organs and tissues below it, and upward to massage the heart. This increases blood flow, which helps to detoxify our inner organs. This practice even helps pump the lymph through your lymphatic system more efficiently. The lymphatic system is an important part of our immune system, but it has no pump of its own. The lymphatic system depends on muscular movements such as the movements of our breathing.
When we breath slower and deeper, the rhythmical pumping of our diaphragm, abdomen, and belly, helps turn on our parasympathetic nervous system–our “relaxation response.” Deep conscious breathing increases energy due to the increased oxygen into your body and can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the “rest and heal” state, which is the only state your body can efficiently digest food therefore better digestion.
This breathing helps to harmonize our nervous system and reduce the effect of stress in our lives. Having a positive impact on our overall health.
The state of your mind affects the breath, and vice versa. When you are angry your breath is usually fast and shallow. When you are relaxed, your breath is slow and deep (hopefully!). The next time you are angry about something or with someone try taking longer deeper breaths. You may notice that can quickly reduce anger and allows you to look at the situation from a new perspective.
In response to stressful situations, anger or anxiety, along with the shortened quick breathing, you may notice a rapid heartbeat, tightening muscles, dilated pupils and perspiration. This is not only an instinctual reaction, but a habit the body has developed over time in response to stressful situations. Any time you feel even slightly angry or anxious, the body starts pumping out the juices (namely adrenaline and cortisol) that fuel this reaction.
This kind of physical reaction is tied to health problems like cardiovascular disease, insomnia, hypertension (high blood pressure), indigestion, increased infections and autoimmune disease. It may also contribute to depression and other mental health issues.
Deep breathing helps reduce your stress levels, making it more alkaline, making you less acidic which has been linked to cancers and many diseases.
Five science-based reasons for paying more attention to our breath are stress management, managing anxiety, lowering heart rate, sparking brain growth and changing gene expression as in breathing can alter the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.
The diaphragm is a muscle, In order to breathe through our diaphragm it needs to be strong. As a child we kept our diaphragm strong by hollering, screaming, shouting, singing, running, jumping, twisting, and playing, and so on. As adults we tend to have poor posture, a more sedentary lifestyle, less running and playing and fun in general.
To strengthen your diaphragm begin by humming, singing on a regular basis. In the car, in the shower, don’t let anyone discourage you, it’s for your health, but be sure not to let yourself become breathless as you do so.
Join a class of tai chi, qigong (chi kung), classical yoga, or other movement disciplines that bring flexibility and deep relaxation.
In short, poor breathing often results in more health problems and a shorter life. Don’t let this get you anxious, just breathe.