Consider how many times you breathe during the day, and how often you do it throughout your entire life. In comparison to any other habit, imagine the difference in your health with even the slightest improvement in every breath you take. There are an infinite amount of benefits to breathing, in addition to life preservation; breathing correctly aids the mind, body, and spirit.
Here are a few benefits that demonstrate the importance of proper breathing:
1. Reduce Stress Levels
Lowering your stress levels will inadvertently improve your overall health. It’s been said that stress is one of the leading causes of preventable illness in the United States. Stress is a nasty precursor to many addictive behaviors and mental disorders as well. Breathing techniques have been widely used in the treatment of anxiety disorders and are also known to be a viable alternative to anxiety medications. Breathing better will help you alleviate all the negative health symptoms associated with stress as well.
2. Detox the Body and Prevent Disease
Breathing is the predominant method of waste removal in the body. Our body removes waste through what is called the “lymphatic system”, a process in which toxins are sorted from the environment. The toxins are trapped and stored in the body until they are ready to be drained through urine, bowel movements and most importantly, the air we exhale. The lymphatic system helps prevent disease, viruses and bacteria that make us sick. With the lungs being one of the primary methods of filtration in the body, it is crucial to properly utilize it.
3. Improves Appearance
Breathing well improves oxygen flow to your muscles and joints, helping you to perform better during strenuous exercise. Increased oxygen contributes to energy conversion but also increases the body’s metabolism, helping you to work out for longer periods of time while also burning more calories. However, what isn’t commonly known are the direct benefits of oxygen on your appearance. With deep breathing, you’re removing harmful toxins from your body but also pumping air and blood to your skin cells. In addition, increased circulation will also help your skin will appear healthier and more radiant. Proper breathing will improve your fitness goals exponentially, but will also help with your immediate appearance.
Day to Day Breathing: For Beginners
Instructions for day-to-day breathing are relatively straightforward. Most of us, without realizing it, have been breathing incorrectly for years. Test yourself; stand up, place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Most likely your chest rises further than your stomach and you’re taking short but frequent breaths. For optimal health, lungs need to be filled to their full capacity and breathing slowed to induce relaxation. There are variations of recommendations, but here is the general consensus on breathing tips:
- breathe using your diaphragm, not shallow “chest” breathinginhale through the nose
- exhale through the mouth
- take longer to exhale than to inhale and remove as much air from the lungs as possible
- Slow down; reduce your breaths-per-minute
- practice breathing correctly until it is natural
Deep Breathing Exercises
Practicing intervals of deep breathing exercises throughout the day or before stressful situations has helped many people successfully treat stress and anxiety. Deep breathing not only helps reduce the immediate symptoms of anxiety, but marked improvement has been recorded for the overall condition as well. There are many different techniques of deep breathing exercises online. Here is a commonly used one to get you started:
The 4-7-8 method:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making sure to empty as much air as you can. If this is done properly there should be an audible “whooshing” sound.
- Close your mouth; using your nose, inhale while counting to 4
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale completely using your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Repeat this cycle for 3 more times totaling 4 breaths.
You can repeat this cycle throughout the day, particularly during stressful situations; however, it’s not recommended you do more than 4 breaths per cycle in your first month. For optimal effectiveness, you should be at least doing 2 cycles a day. Set yourself an alarm on your cell phone or use a timer to remind yourself to do the exercises. The exact number is not as important as using a ratio of 4-7-8. Remember your exhalation should be very audible and your inhalation should be silent. It seems reasonably simple enough, but the positive benefits are immense.