Better Breathing For Better Health

What’s the big deal about breathing? It’s a natural essential part of living and we’re all born knowing how to do it. That is true, but somewhere along the way many of us develop dysfunctional or ineffective breathing habits, due to stress or trauma, which diminish our health and keep us from getting the most out of every breath.

What are the benefits of a deep breath? Dr. David Anderson, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), performed an experiment which shows that slow deep breaths can lower a person’s blood pressure. Anyone who has practiced deep breathing exercises knows firsthand how it can calm the mind and body. Anderson, however, went beyond the basic premise that stress reduction reduces blood pressure, and linked deep breathing to the body’s ability to break down salt, a major contributor to high blood pressure. In general better breathing oxygenates the entire body which improves organ function and, of course, also reduces stress.

Better breathing is simple. There are many different breathing techniques which claim to reduce stress and improve health. Some of them, while useful to achieve a specific effect, can be complicated. The best way to start breathing better for better health is to take full balanced breaths. A full balanced breath consists of inhaling into the entire lungs, letting the air first fill up the bottom of the lungs then expand the ribcage and lastly lift the chest. The inhale should extend the abdomen and expand the front, sides and back of the ribcage. The exhale should be relaxed, as though you are letting air out of a balloon. When the breath is natural and relaxed there is usually a slight pause before the next inhale.

Begin improving your health by becoming aware of breathing when you need to reduce stress. During stressful times stop and take a few natural breaths, deepening them as you go. Close your eyes to stay focused on your breath. Feel the stress leave your body as you exhale. Then imagine inhaling fresh energizing oxygen. Keep your awareness on your breath until you feel calm. As an experiment, take your heart rate before you start. Focus on taking no more than 10 deep breaths in a minute. Do this for 5-10 minutes and take your heart rate again. You will find that your heart rate has slowed significantly, and of course you will feel more relaxed and clear headed. Also remember that simply by doing this little breathing exercise you have improved your health by also improving your organ function. You may even reduced your blood pressure.