Has anyone ever told you to “Just take a moment and breathe?” This may come as a surprise to you, but that may have been the best advice you ever got! You may be well aware of the fact that deep breathing is so crucial to maintaining a healthy being. It’s a practice so important while feeling stressed and overwhelmed, one probably couldn’t get through such circumstances without the breath. Heck, you can’t even get through a few minutes without your breath! Well if this hasn’t convinced you enough, let’s take a deeper look at the importance of deep breathing.
Ancient wisdom is often best
Many ancient cultures have documented the intricate connection between healthy breathing practices and the establishment of a positive relationship between body & mind. Such a practice results in a tranquil state of being and contributes greatly to resilience and strength in body physiology. The ancient hindus speak of Prana while the Chinese speak of Qi energy. All names for the same idea: the vital life force of the individual.
The Science Behind it
Breathing is the most important bodily function because it results in the optimal functioning of our lymphatic system. Our lymphatic system is twice the size of our cardiovascular /circulatory system, now that’s impressive!
What’s a lymph?
Every cell in our body has fluid around it known as lymph. In fact, most of our body’s water supply is found in the lymphatic system. Our cells are swimming in a river of lymph! To make it easier, think of the lymphatic system as the body’s sewage system. Our bodies rely on the lymphatic system to drain off the large amounts of toxic material & excess fluid. Should it shut down for 24 hours, one would die. Lymph nodes produce substances which combat bacteria and viruses and destroy abnormal cells such as cancer cells.
The Good News
By taking deep breaths you inhale and exhale deeply, massaging the thoracic duct upward into the neck; this allows lymph fluid to flow abundantly. In other words, your lymphatic system is activated by deep breathing.
Deep breathing is happy breathing because…
- It puts hyperventilation to a stop
- It’s easy to do and can be practiced at any moment during your day, anywhere
- It oxygenates your every cell
- It increases your energy
- It puts a stop to racing mental chatter and thoughts
- It releases endorphins in your system (Our body’s natural pain killers)
- It relaxes muscles (tense muscles are a major cause of neck pain, back pain and stomach pain)
- Studies demonstrate that deep breathing is very likely to benefit those suffering from asthma, particularly buteyko breathing practices
- It strengthens weak abdominal and intestinal muscles
Pranayama and healing
Pranayama is an Ayurvedic breathing technique that is often practiced while meditating or practicing yoga. In a 2005 review and analysis of several studies, Richard Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbarg, MD reported that Pranayama proved to be extremely effective in handling depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. They wrote: “These techniques can serve as an excellent adjunct to conventional medical treatment –or in some cases as a suitable substitute – in treating myriad psychological disorders, as well as eating disorders and obesity.”
Refreshing Tips for starting your deep breathing practice NOW
- Set aside the time every day for your deep breathing practice
- Take Breaths that are long and slow
- Inhale and exhale through your nose
- Feel your stomach expand, not your chest
- Use your powerhouse, your abdominals, this means your belly button should push towards your spine
- Don’t stress about it…Deep breathing is all about relaxation, being in the present moment and letting go.
- If you don’t achieve deep breathing on your first try, keep trying, practice makes perfect! It should become second nature to you.
“A person who’s never made a mistake, has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein