The more vigilant a person is about the food they consume, the activities they partake in, and the habits they develop to maintain good health, the more successful they are in creating such practices that reward them with wonderful benefits. These benefits are well manifested in mental and physical health. One might wonder about the success rate of such practices, but the truth is that only after trying them out can one see the results.
The Art of Breathing
What about the not-so-conscious activities? What about breathing, for example? All living organisms breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide to provide their body’s cells with the proper amount of oxygen to stay healthy and keep functioning properly. It is often overlooked because breathing is not done consciously, as it is a function of the autonomic nervous system.
You can even test this yourself. Sit back and get into a calm position. Notice how you are breathing and where in your body you are breathing. Are you breathing into your belly or your chest? Are you taking in sharp breaths or breathing slowly? This entire method matters and it is exactly what breathwork is all about.
Breath Control Exercises
Our central nervous system is full of nerves that need to be calmed down if we aim to function properly. These nerves can get the better of us if we keep breathing improperly and do not know how to cope with stress. Breathwork techniques can help us calm down and stay more grounded.
Many breathwork techniques involve paced breathing exercises, such as the box breathing technique. This process involves breathing in for four counts, holding for four counts, exhaling for four counts, and holding for another four counts.
Alternate-nostril breathing is another technique, and consistent practice can help the nervous system become more balanced, with less response to stress and action over time. It helps to reduce blood pressure. Deep breathing and alternate-nostril breathing help reduce blood pressure and slow down the heart rate. It aids with breathing more appropriately when the body is under stress.
How Can Breathing Control Change Your Life?
The benefits of controlled breathing are numerous, and the experience of many people and the research conducted in this particular area supports the claim. But how can someone get the most out of these breathing techniques?
A study focuses on three controlled breathing routines: quick inhaling and slow exhaling, slowly inhaling and exhaling at a greater speed, and evenly timed inhaling and exhaling. Fast breathing followed by slow exhaling (2 seconds in, 8 seconds out) was the most helpful in reducing both physically and mentally exhibited anxiety symptoms.
During hyperventilation, autonomic nervous system cells activate more often, generating a commonly known chemical “adrenaline.” According to a 2014 study, the adrenaline surge causes the innate immune system’s anti-inflammatory function to increase while its proinflammatory activity decreases. After being exposed to IV harmful bacteria, individuals who were given a breathwork program showed less serious inflammatory reactions than those who were not. The publication was the first in the scientific literature to describe the innate immune system’s deliberate engagement.
Try it for yourself as you read this article. Inhale for about 4 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. In this way, you end up exhaling for a time twice as much as your inhale time. Notice how this activity makes you feel. Do you feel more relaxed? This is because you activate your parasympathetic nervous system (or ‘rest and digest’) system as you breathe in this manner and it puts your body at ease.
The problem is that most of us are conditioned to draw in sharp breaths into our lungs that activate the sympathetic part of the nervous system or the ‘fight or flight system, which makes us comparatively more nervous without us realizing it.
Breathe, Exhale, Repeat!
How do we make our bodies shift to a calmer approach toward breathing? It can be done in two ways.
The first method is breath awareness, which can help people monitor their fast or shallow breathing patterns. The second method that follows breath awareness is shifting to LSD (low, slow, and deep) breathing). Setting timers to practice LSD breathing can help people reach a calmer state.
Adjusting our thinking to the worst possibilities in our minds, stopping ruminating with some form of diversion, or going to therapy are common ways to alleviate stress. But what is the point of all this when one cannot work on their nerves when experiencing a stressful situation at its peak and losing their breath?
Don’t use your mind – Use your breath
Rather than trying to reason themselves out of anxiety, people need to understand that there is something that they can do that is effective in that particular moment, to breathe slowly or quickly, in a specific rhythm, or via a nasal cavity and find peace almost immediately.
Most of us might have heard about the health advantages of deep breathing – even just a few deep breaths can help lower cortisol levels while increasing parasympathetic tone, but the breathwork technique is unique. The physiologic alterations that occur during continuous, repetitive breathing are triggered by a change in blood pH resulting from hyperventilation — a condition known as “respiratory alkalosis.”
It is a known fact that we draw in oxygen, breathe out, and get rid of carbon dioxide when we inhale. We expel more amounts of Carbon dioxide when we take quick breaths.
Life-changing benefits of mindful breathing techniques
Slow breathing and breathing more deeply are often recommended to a person under a lot of stress, and rightly so! The heart rate adjusts to a normal rate, which calms our nerves.
Mindful breathing techniques can help us reach a calmer state of mind, and the heart rate variability slows down to a more normal pace and helps us be in a better position both physically and mentally.
Many meditation practices and yoga techniques can help people maintain a greater sense of calm, and the more of us who know about alternative approaches such as breathwork exercises, the better it would be for achieving superior treatment both physically and mentally.