When I began making deep breathing a daily practice, I cried. The first few breaths I took deep within my belly was such a beautiful release that tears just flowed down my cheeks. It's crazy to think that breathing is involuntary - our bodies are so incredibly magical that they do it all for you. How often have you taken the time to appreciate your breath? Seriously, breathe that in for a moment. Breath is not only essential for optimal health but also for feeding the soul.
Did you know that most people only breathe 10 - 20% of their full lung capacity? I know, because I am one of them. Known as a mouth breather or worse someone who forgets to breathe (yes, it happens). Always running on stress mode, which usually means not taking deep breaths or staying present. So what's the problem with this? Let me explain some of the life-changing benefits that deep breathing can provide. I'm talking pure, unaltered, mysterious magic that you'll want to start experiencing right now.
1. Deep breathing calms stress and anxiety
Deep breathing isn't only important for taking in oxygen and distributing it throughout our body, but it also regulates our nervous system. Our lungs are filled with billions of nerve receptors that directly affect our stress and anxiety responses which either calm our body or set off the stress response. The lower lung houses the parasympathetic nerve receptors that calm our body and mind. Alternatively, our upper lungs stimulated by mouth breathing — triggers sympathetic nerve receptors, resulting in the fight or flight reaction aka anxiety. That's why it's so important to breathe deeply into your lower lungs to access those calming benefits. Next time you feel the anxiety looming, take a moment, sit quietly, and take in those deep, big, beautiful breaths.
2. Increases Nutrient Absorption
Eating and breathing go hand in hand when it comes to fueling your body and controlling it's operating system. Breathing in more oxygen allows you to absorb more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs. When your body digests your food, it passes through the intestines that are filled with villi. Villi absorbs nutrients from the food you eat and gather oxygen to further help your body breakdown the meal. If the villi aren't able to pick up enough oxygen, nutrient absorption decreases and it isn't able to breakdown food effectively. If the body has lots of oxygen to go around, it's easier for the villi to take in all the good nutrients and oxygen that you need to digest and function optimally.
3. Speeds Up Metabolism
This one will really excite you... drum roll, please. When you take the time to breathe during meals, you actually burn more calories than if you were to rush through your meal. Many people don't understand why they are not losing weight or feeling super sluggish during the day. I'll tell you right now, it's most likely because they're scarfing down food rather than breathing through it. The body needs time to get into the "relaxation mode" to successfully assimilate what you're eating so that the digestion process can do its thing. Breathing and slowing down your meals actually makes more of a difference in calorie burning than that pricey salad you're eating. Pretty fascinating stuff, am I right?
4. Improves Immunity
Newsflash: Stress, and anxiety trigger the activation of autoimmune diseases. Whoa...what?! As stress and anxiety increase in the body, additional cortisol (the stress response) is released contributing to poor sleep and hormone imbalances that further lead to auto-immune diseases. If we're constantly stuck in a high-stress mode, our immune system shuts down and puts us on a fast track to a long term illness or disease. Sounds scary? It should be because it's 100% true. Mindful breathing allows us to regulate our stressed state by initiating the parasympathetic nerve that calms the body - quickly and efficiently. With all of the active illnesses and diseases in the world today, it would make a whole lot of sense to start using our bodies as tools. They're always available, mind-bogglingly intelligent and COMPLETELY FREE. No payment required.
Truth be told, I didn't know a lot about the importance of breath and its effects on the body. As I started on my self-discovery journey and incorporated deep breathing into my daily routine, I soon realized this small change had a major impact on my life. Mindful breathing forced me to take time to slow down, embrace calmness, becoming more present, and appreciating how miraculous my existence on this earth really is.
Breathe in calmly, through the nose, filling your abdomen and chest, for 5 seconds (or longer, not exceeding 7 seconds). Hold this breath in for 3 seconds. Slowly and gently release the breath through the mouth for 5 seconds (or more, whatever is comfortable.) breathe out through a slightly parted lip or “O” shaped lips. Repeat this 5 times, or even better, continue for 5 minutes.
Important tips: Deep breathing should be slow and gentle. Remember to fill the abdomen, not just the chest. A simple way to make sure you are doing this is to place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breath deeply and make sure your hand on your stomach is rising. Try to be aware of your breath, heartbeat, and to release tension from your body. Sometimes it’s easier to lie down or sit comfortably in a chair.