Modern medicine is just catching up to the ancient yogis on a variety of subjects, including quantifying the incredible healing benefits of breathing exercises or breath control – what’s called pranayama in Sanskrit. Science and research are now showing that intentional breathing balances the brain and reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue — all while boosting the mood, metabolism, relaxation, and inner peace. That’s a pretty great trade-off if you ask us! Research indicates breathing exercises also have an impact on chronic issues such as blood pressure, cardio vascular health and even fibromyalgia.
The common phrase “Just breathe” takes on a whole new gravitas with these findings.
Life in the 21st century is fast-paced, with endless distractions, plus we spend most of our days working indoors. The body’s natural healing rhythms are affected by modern-day lifestyles, including the breath. Shallow breathing has become the norm. The effects of shallow breathing are less than ideal, including fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression and illness.
On the flip side, consider how you breathe when you take a walk in nature. The breath naturally deepens, filling the body with oxygen, leaving you feeling relaxed and energized.
So – we already instinctually know that deep breathing feels better. Now for some science:
Breath for Detoxification & Energy
When we inhale, oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream and is transported to every cell of the body. When we exhale, CO2 (the body’s waste) is removed from the body. As Patton Sarley writes in his article for Kripalu: “Cellular respiration, the source of all our physical energy and expression in the world, is dependent on a constant flow of oxygen being delivered to each cell and carbon dioxide being taken away.” Learn more here…
Breath for PH Balance and Anti-Inflammation
Discussions about pH and inflammation have been all the rage in health and wellness lately. Deep breathing reduces inflammation and has alkalizing effects on the body, balancing the pH. Conversely, the effects of shallow breathing are a buildup of CO2, creating acidic conditions. Deep breathing may be the most healing action you can take! More on this here…
Breath for Stress & Chronic Conditions
It has been shown that most of us move through life in a near-constant state of “fight/flight” activation with the stress hormone cortisol pumping through our bodies. Simply put, we’re stressed out, most of the time, whether we need to be or not. And this chronic stress is a root cause of countless chronic conditions. Short, shallow breath is appropriate for fight/flight, as the body prepares to survive a conflict. But it’s not appropriate for every day life. By deepening the breath, and actually elongating the exhale, we are shifting out of our sympathetic nervous systems and activating our parasympathetic nervous systems. This simple act recalibrates our stress response and addresses or contributes to the prevention of many serious chronic conditions. NPR explored this further on Morning Edition, listen here…
Our conclusion? An abundance of oxygen may be the easiest and biggest boost to your health and wellness regime. Best of all, it is so simple and we already have all the tools! We can restore and enhance our natural breathing patterns by bringing attention to the breath throughout the day and including pranayama in our yoga practice. Easy Breezy!