In our last blog, we discussed about breathing right and the benefits associated with it. Today, we go a little deeper to discuss the benefits of deep breathing v/s shallow breathing. As we pointed out in our last blog, most of us do not breathe properly, but what does “not breathing properly” exactly imply? and why is that we aren’t breathing right?
Not breathing right could well mean that you’re breathing shallow
Shallow breathing: The act of breathing engages the diaphragm, a strong sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. As you breathe in, the diaphragm drops downward, pulling your lungs with it and pressing against abdominal organs to make room for your lungs to expand as they fill with air. As you breathe out, the diaphragm presses back upward against your lungs, helping to expel carbon dioxide.
Shallow breathing hobbles the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest portion of the lungs — which is where many small blood vessels instrumental in carrying oxygen to cells reside — never gets a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.
The higher levels of CO2 retained in the body make us feel sluggish, tired and even depressed.
Why Is Our Breath Fast and Shallow?
There are several reasons for this. The major reasons are:
- We are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern.
- The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply.
- We get too emotional too easily. We get excited easily, angry easily, and most of the rest of the time we suffer from anxiety due to worry. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and shallow.
- Modern technology and automation reduces our need for physical activity. There is less need to breathe deeply, so we develop the shallow breathing habit.
- Our increased exposure to pollution. As a result, the body instinctively inhales less air to protect itself from pollution. The body just takes in enough air to tick over.
As we go through life, these bad breathing habits we picked up become part of our life.
Deep breathing: When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is present by birth in all of us but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
We will now summarize the benefits of deep breathing. Deep breathing produces the following benefits:
- Improvement in the quality of the blood due to its increased oxygenation in the lungs. This aids in the elimination of toxins from the system.
- Increase in the digestion and assimilation of food. The digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen, and hence operates more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is more oxygenated.
- Improvement in the health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves due to the increased oxygenation
- The brain has a special affinity for oxygen, requiring three times more oxygen than does the rest of the body. This has far-reaching effects on our well being.
- Rejuvenation of the skin. The skin becomes smoother and a reduction of facial wrinkles occurs.
- The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massage the abdominal organs – the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. This stimulates the blood circulation in these organs.
- The lungs become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.
- Deep, slow, yoga breathing (Pranayam) reduces the work load for the heart. The result is a more efficient, stronger heart that operates better and lasts longer. It also mean reduced blood pressure and less heart disease.
- Deep, slow breathing assists in weight control. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands. In other words, yoga tends to produce the ideal weight for you.
- Relaxation of the mind and body. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing causes a reflex stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in a reduction in the heart rate and relaxation of the muscles. These two factors cause a reflex relaxation of the mind, since the mind and body are very interdependent. In addition, oxygenation of the brain tends to normalize brain function, reducing excessive anxiety levels.
Now close your eyes and take that deep breath! Feels good isn’t it ? Happy breathing
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