The Benefits of Controlled Breathing

Do yourself a huge favor and take a deep breath

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Technically speaking breathing is to process of absorbing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs.

When someone is under stress his or her breathing pattern changes. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body.

Controlling how and when people breathe may seem hard to do because breathing is an automatic, involuntary and continuous process for humans. The respiratory center sends a message to the respiratory muscles telling them when to inhale. The medulla, located nearest to the spinal cord, directs it to maintain breathing. The voluntary control of breathing is located in the cortex of the brain.

Take a deep breath. Pause for a second or two. Exhale slowly. Do the same exercise a few times. You’ve done your nervous system a great favor.

Reduces stress

Focused breathing is the one “Super Stress Buster” that evokes the relaxation response that the American Institute of Stress widely recommends as useful for everyone, even kids.  Abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day will reduce anxiety and reduce stress. “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.”

Increases alertness

Scientific studies on “Om” chanting suggest that the mental repetition of “Om” results in physiological alertness, increased sensitivity as well as synchronicity of certain biorhythms, and an increased sensitivity to sensory transmission.

Try the Stimulating Breath exercise, which is adapted from yogic breathing techniques. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness. “If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen,” according to Dr.Weil.com.

Boosts the immune system

A team of medical researchers from the Netherlands published a study which suggests that, with the right training and breathing technique, people could be taught to actually control their body’s sympathetic nervous system—the part that controls the fight-or-flight response—along with their immune response.

“Healthy volunteers practicing the learned techniques exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the pro-inflammatory cytokine response,” according to the study.

Lowers blood pressure and heart rate

Stress revs up the autonomic nervous system, which regulates things not under our control such as blood pressure and heart rate. Stress causes hypertension; so logically, stress reduction can lower blood pressure, frequently improving overall well-being.  

Deep breathing shouldn’t replace blood pressure medications, but it can be a helpful addition, according to Harvard Medical School. Ideally, people would practice it for about 10-15 minutes every day.

Research has shown that slow controlled breathing is associated with an increase in strength of both the depressor and the cardio-inhibitory components of the arterial baroreflex, the function of which is to the control of blood pressure.

More readings:

How Stress Cancels Out Benefits of Healthy Eating

15 Signs You May Be Suffering from Stress But Don’t Realize It

Quick Tips for Handling Stress at Work

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