Friday, August 5, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

Health benefits of deep breathing

As important and fundamental as breathing is to life, it is surprising how little attention it gets. Breathing is something that just happens and most of the time we don't think about it. At least in the Western tradition there is not much thought put into the power of breathing.

This is a shame. Some of the most common health problems  in the modern world can be greatly improved by breathing properly. Not only is breathing right completely free, it is also available to anyone at any time without any adverse side effect what so ever. This is probably why western medicine don't spend much time thinking about breathing, there's just no money to be made from it.

So what is 'proper' breathing anyway? After all, you've managed to stay alive for several years now so you must be doing something right, right? Sure, but there is more to breathing than just staying alive.

If you have ever seen a movie, then you have probably seen at least one scene where someone under great stress freaks out and starts hyperventilating. The protagonist then tells her (most often it's a woman) to just breath, and after taking a few slow breaths together everything is alright again.

Movies take artistic liberties with everything, but it is definitely true that breathing slower calms you down. You can do an experiment right now. Draw your breath as deep as you can, hold it and exhale slowly and completely. Keep exhaling until your lungs are completely empty. After just a couple of breaths you'll feel yourself relaxing.

It's very rare to see people breathing deeply and slowly in America. Just like our lives and minds have become high paced, so has our breathing. Typical breathing is rapid and shallow. I don't know if breathing like this causes stress or if it is stress that causes breathing to rapidly. The important part is that by paying attention to how we breath it is easy to start breathing slower.

There are many alleged benefits of deep breathing. Some theorize that taking deeper and more complete breaths adds more oxygen to the blood and this will increase metabolism. Others say that exhaling completely helps remove all the 'bad' air from the lungs. There are claims that deep breathing lowers blood pressure and improves the immune system.

I don't know that all these claims can be validated scientifically. What I do know is that deep breathing is considered one of the four ways of activating the bodies natural self healing powers in traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine draws on thousands of years of observation of the human condition. If they single out deep breathing as an integral piece in achieving great health I think it's worth giving it a shot.

Breathing deeply is not hard to do. You basically just slow down your breathing and draw each breath completely. What I mean by drawing a complete breath is to not stop inhaling until your lungs are completely filled, and not stop exhaling until the lungs are completely empty. Typically you want to breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Take your time doing both. Try to spend 10 seconds breathing in and then 10 seconds slowly breathing out.

As you might already have discovered, just a couple of deep breaths can be very relaxing. The real dramatic effects become clearer if you extend your deep breathing sessions to at least 10 minutes. In addition to being a very powerful stress killer, seep breathing also is great for decluttering the mind and thinking clearer. In fact, deep breathing is the perfect companion to meditation. Focusing on your breath and keeping it slow makes it a lot easier to block out all other thoughts and have a productive meditation session.

Deep breathing is great for eliminating stress. This is reason enough to start breathing better in my mind. Stress and all it's related issues is a major contributor to many modern ailments. Releasing stress and tension daily is doing your body a great favor.

  1. In making decisions, taking a deep breath could also help us decide effectively. It seems we give time to ourselves when we do a deep breath. As what we can hear always, before doing anything, we should take a deep breath first then proceed.

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