Breathing is part of our everyday life, right? Most of us go through our day without stopping to think about our breath, how it feels in our body, or if the tempo of our breath has changed. Science is starting to uncover just how beneficial mindfulness breathing is for our bodies. Ancient practices have taught for thousands of years how breathing can slow down our thoughts and help us feel more internal peace. We are just starting to uncover the depths and mental benefits that breathing has on our minds and bodies.
Yoga as we know it in the United States typically focuses on two main aspects, “asana” (physical postures) and “pranayama” (breathing exercises). A new study by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal reports that the number of Americans practicing yoga has increased by over 50% in just the last 4 years and the number is strongly increasing. Harvard University also reports that one in three Americans have tried yoga. Why? Because it can offer amazing benefits such as improving mobility and general fitness, releasing stress, promoting healthy eating, and regulating the nervous system through (you guessed it)…breathing!
At the Christian Center of Park City, many of our therapists incorporate mindfulness breathing into sessions with clients to reduce anxiety, combat depression and encourage clients to listen to the cues of their bodies. Consciously being aware and changing the way we breathe sends a signal to the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system, which can slow down heart rate and digestion and enhance feelings of calmness.
One of the most popular forms of therapeutic breathing is called Belly Breathing, and if you have been a client of mine, the chances are, we have done a lot of Belly Breaths together. The way to do this is quite simple: find a seated position and notice how your body feels, what areas are tight, and what areas are relaxed. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, making sure that your belly expands like a balloon. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four, allowing the air to escape from your belly and release through your mouth. Repeat this technique four or five times and reassess how your body feels. What is tight and what is relaxed?
Belly Breathing has many benefits, to name a few:
- Helps you relax
- Reduces heart rate
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increases the amount of oxygen in your lungs
- Allows your body to release gas waste from your lungs
- Regulates your nervous system
So, the next time you feel like your body is out of rhythm, try to pause and take a few breaths!
By: Carina Nation
Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Diaphragmatic breathing exercises & benefits. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9445-diaphragmatic-breathing
Marlynn Wei, M. D. (2016, March 7). New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga – and why some people still haven’t tried it. Harvard Health. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-survey-reveals-the-rapid-rise-of-yoga-and-why-some-people-still-havent-tried-it-201603079179#:~:text=While%20the%20majority%20of%20yoga,years%20to%20reach%2014%20million.
Jayawardena, R., Ranasinghe, P., Ranawaka, H., Gamage, N., Dissanayake, D., & Misra, A. (2020). Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review. International journal of yoga, 13(2), 99–110. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_37_19
Alderman, L. (2016, November 9). Breathe. exhale. repeat: The benefits of controlled breathing. The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/well/mind/breathe-exhale-repeat-the-benefits-of-controlled-breathing.html#:~:text=Controlled%20breathing%2C%20like%20what%20you,a%20way%20to%20reach%20enlightenment.