Ancient Indian wisdom tells us that we are allocated a certain number of breaths when we are born, use those up and ‘poof!’ you’re done. If we believe this to be true, we want to make every one of those allocated breaths count. We want to breathe deeper and longer, using our breaths wisely and not wasting them.
It’s not just the Indian sages who believe in the power of the breath though, modern science says breathing deeply is very good for us. In fact, diaphragmatic breathing has a tonne of benefits. We’re talking reducing stress, helping anxiety and depression, dealing with insomnia and much more.
But that’s not all, by NOT taking deep, slow breaths we are negatively affecting our bodies. Shallow, short breaths can lead to a range of issues like autoimmune disease, cardiovascular problems, indigestion and mental health challenges. Scary, right?
So let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of the breath:
Our cells are thirsty for oxygen, in fact, oxygen is non-negotiable. While we can survive for days without water and food, we can only survive mere minutes without oxygen. Breathing deeply helps to improve the delivery of oxygen throughout the body, making your cells sing with happiness! Improved oxygen delivery to your system will increase your physical stamina as well as your mental abilities.
Improve your respiratory system
Breathing long and deep helps to expand not only your primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm, but also all the other supporting muscles which help you to breathe. Take a deep breath in and you’ll notice an expansion of your belly, sides (the intercostal muscles), back (between your shoulder blades) and the front of the chest. Phew, did that release some tension or what?!
Lower your blood pressure
Long, slow and deep breaths are one of the quickest ways you can lower your blood pressure. When you’re breathing properly your muscles will relax and let go of tension, this includes one of your most important muscles – your heart.
Calm the nervous system
If you’ve ever been to yoga class and practised ‘pranayama’ (consisting of breathing techniques), you may be familiar with the beautiful feeling of calm you possess during and after the practice. This is because deep breathing gets you out of flight-or-fight mode, allowing your nervous system to chill out!
Just like exercise, deep breathing triggers the release of endorphins into your system. Often known as ‘feel-good’ chemicals, endorphins can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster.
Improve your cardiovascular system
Long, slow and deep breaths act as a toning and massaging agent for important internal organs like the heart, brain, liver and reproductive organs. On one level this occurs because a deep breath includes belly and diaphragm expansion massaging the organs. And on another level, deep breathing improves circulation helping to tone and condition.
Better your mental state
The quality of the breath is often reflected in the quality of our mind. Think back to the last time you were in a stressful situation, you’re breathing was probably shallow and quick. We can hack this system by choosing to breathe long and deep in order to help relax the mind. A more relaxed mind has a better ability to concentrate, analyse, see clearly, be productive and make good decisions.
Relieve muscle tension
Just as the quality of our mind is affected by the quality of our breath, so is the quality of your physical body. A stressed and anxious body will be riddled with tension thanks to contracting muscles. Help to relieve this tightness by breathing deeply, filling all the way up and emptying all the way out.