Updated: Apr 18, 2020
With all the stress surrounding this pandemic, I think that it is in everyone’s best interest to just “slow down and take a deep breath”. Why? because practicing deep breathing is amazing and it can literally save your life if you are doing it correctly.
“The breath is what “yokes” the body-mind. It stills the ego, calms the mind, relaxes the body, and guides us safely. “-Ed Harold in Life With Breath: IQ + EQ = NEW YOU
Rest, Digest and Control Your Peace With PNS
We all have a system within us, known as the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), or the “rest and digest system”, that controls our ability to calm down and remain resilient against threatening stimuli. This system is responsible for slowing down the heart rate, enhancing digestive and glandular function, quieting the brain noise, maintaining energy stores and correcting mental panic, while we think logically on how to get ourselves out of danger. In fact, without proper function of this system, we would be in a constant state of stress, which would easily lead to an early demise.
“It’s through this system that we strengthen our nervous and cardiovascular systems and allow them to handle more energy without raising our heart rates too high, overloading our bloodstream with high levels of acidity, or increasing inflammation.” -Ed Harold's Life With Breath: IQ + EQ = NEW YOU
When we learn how to switch on the PNS, even in the most stressful times, we increase our ability to slow aging, increase energy conservation and live a longer, happier life. The question is how do we switch it on? Is it a grueling task that requires special insights and knowledge of the neuro-biochemical components of our body? No. You just have to pay better attention to how you breathe.
5 Benefits of Deep Breathing
Breathing isn’t something that we usually pay much attention to on a regular basis being that it happens naturally. So in creating wellness plans for my clients, I always include deep breathing practices because it can heal the mind, body and soul if done with intention.
Fortunately, not only can deep breathing make you feel amazing, but it has several documented scientific benefits as well.
As we age, we loose the ability to fill our total lung capacity (which is the total amount of air our lungs can hold). There are several factors that can further reduce this ability and ultimately lead to shortness of breath and poor oxygenation of the blood; these factors include: smoking, environmental pollution, asthma, and COPD.
Deep breathing practices can mitigate this risk by helping to: (1) maintain and enhance lung capacity, (2) slow the decline of lung function, and (3) reduce risk of lung infections (i.e pneumonia and bacterial bronchitis). This will make it easier to keep your lungs strong enough to maintain appropriate oxygenation and promote nourishment throughout the body.
As we focus on the depth of our breaths, our blood pressure and heart rate normalizes and our organs maintain optimal gas exchange as we breath in more oxygen and get rid of stale air. With these events, slow controlled breaths send signals to the brain to activate the PNS, which reduces anxiety, enhances our focus, and improves emotional resiliency .
The daily goal is to conserve as much energy as possible. In a society that is overworked and addicted to stimulants (i.e. caffeine and adderall), it is almost impossible for us to identify and improve our natural energy stores. However, deep breathing is a relaxing activity that encourages energy conservation. When the PNS is activated with deep controlled breaths, the body relaxes and reduces the excess burning of energy stores.
Consistent practice of deep breathing in the morning can help you: (1) maintain energy levels throughout the day, and (2) reduce energy crashes and brain fog.
Studies show that our lifestyle choices can turn genes on or off, with the healthiest choices turning on the good genes and turning off the bad ones. Slow and deep nose breathing is known as an anti-inflammatory activity that can turn on the good genes. Studies shows that relaxation induced by deep breathing produces rapid change in the expression of genes involved in immunity, insulin secretion, and energy metabolism.
In addition, the relaxing property of this activity alone can further contribute to health, as it work to turn off genes that lead to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, neuro-dysfunction and mental health disorders.
“When we breathe slowly and deeply, through our noses, we put out the fire that causes oxidative stress and inflammation” -Ed Harold's Life With Breath: IQ + EQ = NEW YOU
Deep breathing practices and similar activities have promising benefits on the immune system. It is well known that cortisol, a stress hormone, can weaken the immune response; however, once we learn how to engage in proper deep breathing, we are able to activate relaxation, reduce over stimulation, and reduce the excess release of cortisol and inflammatory kinetics. This also contributes to less inflammation and mucus production throughout the body, further leading to a resilient immune response.
Better Sleep Quality
Sleep is very important, but many of us either: (1) don’t get enough sleep or (2) don't get good quality sleep. Becoming more aware of the depth and the quality of our breaths can change that. There is a specific nerve that is stimulated with deep breathing known as the vagus nerve and when it is activated, it tells our brains to secrete more serotonin and lower the levels of cortisol and adrenaline. More serotonin allows for regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline may help to increase total sleep time and decrease nigh time awakening.
Tips For Deep Breathing Practices
When it comes to mind-body modalities, we usually make it seem harder than what it is, but the best first step is to simply do it even if you don't quite understand how. keep in mind that deep breathing allows you to enhance self-awareness and become more in tune with your natural flow. Follow the instructions below to and start your deep breathing today with the 4-7-8 technique.
1. Loosen any tight clothing.
2. Find a quiet (clean) area where you can be uninterrupted for 5-10 minutes.
3. Sit in a comfortable position with a straight back (consider sitting crossed leg on the ground) or lay flat on your back on a firm, yet comfortable, surface .
4. Lightly close your eyes and relax all of the muscles in your face.
5. Focus your attention on your breathing. Inhale for a count of 4, hold that breath for 7 counts and exhale for 8 counts. Repeat for 3-4 cycles and then take a 1 minute break before repeating. Do this in the morning and at night for optimal practice.
NOTE: If you are having difficultly or are unable to complete breaths with the 4-7-8 method, try the 3-4-6 method instead. Inhale for a count of 3, hold that breath for 5 counts and exhale for 6 counts.