Breathing Deeply

Breathing, it keeps us alive, but how we breathe can affect our entire body. Our lungs are like an upside-down tree. The fresh oxygen travels down the trunk of that tree – our trachea -- into the limbs and leaves -- bronchi,  bronchioles and alveoli -- and when that oxygen reaches the ends of those leaves or alveoli, there is a gas exchange. The fresh oxygen is passed into our blood stream and in return carbon dioxide is brought into the lungs and exhaled out of the body. (Side note: As the cells in our body do what they need to do to keep us functioning and healthy they make and release carbon dioxide.)

The diaphragm is a major component in helping us with this breathing process, but most of us have gotten into the habit of shallow breathing or “chest breathing”. When we shallow breathe, it limits the range of motion of our diaphragm, which can cause that fresh oxygen to be limited in its travel and not be able to reach the lowest parts of our lungs. So, only part of the leaves on our tree are receiving that fresh oxygen, meaning our body is not receiving all the fresh oxygen it could be getting and it’s also not releasing all the carbon dioxide it could be getting rid of with each breath we take.

So, you might already be starting to see how deep breathing really benefits our health, but here are just a few ways it’s better for us:

  • It lowers our stress and in turn, lowers the effects of that stress on our body.
  • It puts less strain on your immune system by reducing your stress, and in turn, your immune system doesn’t have to work at full capacity all the time.
  • It lowers your heartrate.
  • It lowers your blood pressure.
  • It strengthens your core muscles and improves the range of motion of your diaphragm.
  • It calms the nervous system.
  • It increases your energy levels.
  • It releases muscle tension.
  • It helps with insomnia.
  • It helps in managing PTSD.
  • It can help to reduce the risk of cancer.
  • It helps to maintain a balance PH in our blood.
  • It helps your digestive system to work more efficiently.
  • It increases circulation to the heart, liver, and brain.

“Harvard researcher Herbert Benson used research to show that short periods of meditation, using breathing as a focus, could alter the body's stress response. He claims his research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. He says that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind. ‘It does away with the whole mind-body separation. Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes we're changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress.’”     -NPR

Breathe, but breathe deeply. It will feel unnatural at first, but that is only because you have been shallow breathing for so long. Start with one of the breathing meditations below to help get you in a good routine until deep breathing starts to feel like your new norm.

Deep breathing meditation
Here is a great breathing meditation to instill positive health into your mind and body (read through first and then follow the numbered steps for the meditation):
  1. Find a quiet place to sit (Sit in a chair, couch, mat or floor).
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Take a deep breath in through your nose and silently count to 4 while you are breathing in.
  4. While doing this focus your attention on your lungs completely filling with air down to your belly, with your belly rising as air flows in.
  5. Hold the breath, counting silently for 7 seconds.
  6. Exhale all the air through your mouth, while silently counting to 8 seconds. Having all the air exhaled by the time you reach 8 seconds.
  7. Continue to repeat this 4-7-8 deep breathing exercise for 4 to 7 more times.
  8. After the seventh time, continue to sit and focus on deep breathing, but without the counting; breathing in through your nose, using your diaphragm and your belly with each breath, and exhale all the air through your mouth.
Start with a 5-minute meditation and work your way up to a 30-minute meditation, incorporating this into your daily routine. Maybe have it start your day when you wake up or end your day with it, or both.

 

Add-on:  When you take that deep breath in, visualize it as a ball of healing white energy/light, and as you hold that breath for 7 seconds, visualize that white light traveling all over your body healing you from head to toe. When you exhale out, visualize that as black negative energy (all the stress and disease in you) going out of your body and disappearing.

 

World healing deep breathing meditation
  1. Find a quiet place to sit (Sit in a chair, couch, mat or floor).
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Start taking a few deep breaths in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Really focus on the air coming into your lungs and your belly expanding with each breath in, and then as you exhale, try to exhale all the air in your lungs.
  4. Once you feel completely relaxed, place your hands in front of you, like you were holding a ball, but envision that ball to be a ball of healing energy/light.
  5. As you breath in, move your hands out and away from each other, as if that ball of healing energy is growing. Envision that energy coming from the universe. When your hands are wide and far apart, the universe and its healing energy is within it.
  6. Now exhale, and as you exhale, bring your hands closer together and envision that energy being gathered within your hands and as your hands get closer together it’s pushing that healing energy into the earth; reaching every living soul for their highest good.
  7. Continue to deep breath in, expanding your hands and visualizing gathering that healing energy and then breathing out all the air, bringing your hands closer together, focusing that energy into the earth and every living soul.
  8. Breath in the energy and exhale to heal the world.
Start with a 5-minute meditation and work your way up to a 30-minute or even an hour meditation, incorporating this into your daily routine. Maybe have it start your day when you wake up or end your day with it, or both.

 

We have the ability to heal our mind, body and the world. Maybe it’s not your norm, but maybe it’s time to create a new norm. Inspire positive change one breath at a time. 😊

 

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255
https://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417#about
https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/benefits-of-breathing-deeply/
https://www.livestrong.com/article/92264-benefits-deep-breathing/
https://www.uchealth.org/today/understanding-breathing-and-the-importance-of-taking-a-deep-breath/
https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#benefits
https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/breathing-is-believing-the-importance-of-nasal-breathing

 

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