As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it's scientifically proven to benefit the heart, brain, digestion and immune system.
Studies show that a few mindful tweaks to the way we breathe can improve health and reduce stress.
Consider the profound difference in the benefit of a deep breath versus a shallow one. Slow, deep breathing that engages the diaphragm causes one’s heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure to drop. Quick, shallow breathing that fills the upper chest alone, does not.
Oxygen is good. More oxygen is better.
Deep breathing promotes healing. Studies have shown it promotes recovery for a host of conditions, such as chronic pain, asthma, digestive issues and depression. It’s worth considering that last condition. Deep, steady breathing is a simple way to glide into a state of calm and relaxation.
Traditions as varied as Zen Buddhism, martial arts and yoga, all teach a variety of breathing techniques to boost strength or cultivate inner peace. Almost all of these methods begin by simply becoming aware of one’s breath. Here’s the good news about deep breathing or breath work. There’s nothing to buy. Air is free. You can do it anywhere. And you don’t have to take it on faith. Breath deeply, fully and mindfully for as little as 5 minutes and see if you feel a difference.
Sure, breath work can be done lying down with incense lit in a hushed room with a playlist of tunes by Enya. It’s brilliant to do this from time to time, because you may discover that while 5 minutes of deep breathing works, 20 minutes of it transports you into a state of nirvana. The other thing you may find compelling about full, mindful breathing is you can do it anywhere, especially to regain your composure after a stressful situation.
A quick how-to guide
Lying down or standing, allow the diaphragm and rib cage to expand as your lungs fill with air. Sip the air. No need for big gulps. Then exhale, allowing— but not forcing— the air to completely leave the lungs.
Rinse and repeat.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing requires focus. It’s a bit like riding a bicycle; get used to it and it becomes natural.