Oxygen is the most important nutrient as it feeds and nourishes our body and brain. Improving the way we breathe can improve our overall health. Some of the health benefits of slow, deep breathing include:
- Cleansing and detoxifying the body
- Improving digestion
- Alkalizing the blood
- Calming the mind and reducing anxiety and stress
- Enhancing efficient cell turnover
- Improving the flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout the bloodstream
- Strengthening the lungs
- Improving circulation
When most people breathe, only the upper chest rises and falls. The diaphragm and abdomen rarely move. However, our lungs take up most of the space inside the ribcage; they start from the area just below the shoulders all the way down to the diaphragm (a partition that sits above the waist). Deep breathing involves breathing in slowly through the nose, opening up the ribcage to allow the lungs to fill up completely, taking in more oxygen.
The lungs are an important organ needed for elimination of toxins in the body, and poor-quality breathing is thought to be a common cause of illness. This is mainly due to restricted lung capacity, which may also be caused by poor posture, and our emotional and physical health.
Research on Benefits of Deep breathing
Breathing slowly and consciously has shown to have a significantly positive effect on lowering blood pressure naturally. Research suggests that breathing slowly for a few minutes a day is enough to help people lower blood pressure naturally, and it is believed that how we breathe may be a way to how the body regulates blood pressure.
Researchers have found that in addition to stress relief, deep breathing regulates blood pressure by breaking down the salt that we eat more slowly. The abstract to this study concludes:
"Together, these studies are consistent with the view that behavioral stress can influence blood pressure regulation via sustained inhibition of respiration which acidifies the plasma and increases sodium/hydrogen exchange in kidneys and blood vessels."
David E. Anderson Cardiorenal effects of behavioral inhibition of breathing Biological Psychology Volume 49, Issues 1-2, September 1998, Pages 151-163
Dr David Anderson, the author of this study said:
"If you sit there under-breathing all day (as most people do) and you have a high salt intake, your kidneys may be less effective at getting rid of that salt than if you're out hiking in the woods"
A recent study found that children who lead sedentary lives (e.g. sitting in front of a television), had double the risk of developing asthma . The researchers suggested that this was because leading a less active lifestyle encourages shallow breathing and the lungs don't fully function, making asthma more likely.
Better breathing Techniques
- Breathing should be steady, relaxed and rhythmical.
- The chest and abdomen should both move, so that oxygen fills the entire lungs.
- Breath in slowly through your nose and aim for about 12-15 breaths per minute, exhaling slowly and for the same length of time as you inhale.
- Try to protect your lungs from pollution by avoiding deep breathing where the air is polluted, e.g. fumes from exhaust emissions, smoke and chemicals like paint and varnish.
Simply by making ourselves aware of how we are breathing, and making small changes to the way we perform this everyday function, can have positive benefits on our health and wellbeing.
-  Sherriff A, Maitra A, Ness AR, et al. Association of duration of television viewing in early childhood with the subsequent development of asthma. Thorax. Published online 3 March 2009.
- Elliot WJ, Izzo JL Jr, White WB, Rosing DR, Snyder CS, Alter A, Gavish B, Black HR. Graded blood pressure reduction in hypertensive outpatients associated with use of a device to assist with slow breathing. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2004 Oct;6(10):553-9; quiz 560-1.
- Grossman E, Grossman A, Schein MH, Zimlichman R, Gavish B. Breathing-control lowers blood pressure. J Hum Hypertens. 2001 Apr;15(4):263-9.