6 Health Benefits You’ll Experience by Practicing Focused Breathing
While it may seem like a simple act, taking conscious control of your breath can have a powerful impact on your body and mind. From reducing stress to improving athletic performance, there are numerous benefits to conscious, intentional breathing, which has been gaining popularity as a powerful tool for managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Not only does focused breathing help you achieve a state of calm and relaxation, but it also offers a range of other health benefits.
Background to Breathwork
To start practicing breath focus, all you need to do is find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down, and begin to breathe slowly and deeply, paying attention to each inhale and exhale.
In the 1970s, Dr. Herbert Benson coined the term ‘relaxation response’. This response was a physiological response developed to aid in regaining balance after a dangerous or stressful occurrence. Dr. Benson identified that the relaxation response can be activated using various meditative techniques such as tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep diaphragmatic breathing. His discovery, combined with his bestselling book “The Relaxation Response” has allowed for breathwork to become accepted in the scientific realm.
Getting Started with Breathwork
Breathwork, also known as focused breathing, is a technique that involves conscious control over one’s breathing. This type of breathing involves inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, which helps to increase the oxygen flow in the body and reduce stress.
To begin practicing focused breathing, find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted and sit, stand, or even lay in a comfortable position with your spine straight. You can close your eyes or keep them open, whatever feels more comfortable for you.
Start by inhaling deeply through your nose, filling your lungs with air, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process several times, focusing on your breath. Deep breathing involves using your diaphragm to inhale and exhale deeply.
.Avoid shallow breathing, which involves using only your chest muscles, as this can lead to fatigue and anxiety. Practice patience and persistence, and you’ll soon begin to experience the many benefits of focused breathing.
1) Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Focused breathing is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety, as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. If left unchecked, stress and anxiety can lead to physical issues like high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
High blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease, can be caused by stress. Elevated Cortisol levels, commonly known as the stress hormone, can damage the body’s immune cells, leaving us open to sickness. Additionally, an overly active amygdala – the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional regulation – can trigger anxiousness and irritation if the stress persists for a long period. Chronic stress can reduce serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that can result in clinical depression if depleted.
Anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that can have debilitating effects, including panic attacks. Physical health risks such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and digestive problems are also associated with chronic anxiety. Focused breathing is an effective way to manage anxiety and prevent panic attacks. Training oneself to regulate breathing during non-distressed times can help reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks
2) Improved Respiratory Function
One of the most obvious benefits of focused breathing exercises is an improvement in respiratory function. By practicing breathwork, you can strengthen your lungs, reduce shortness of breath, and increase overall oxygen intake. When a person practices focused breathing, it strengthens their lungs, reduces shortness of breath, and increases overall oxygen intake, according to the experts at Harvard Medical School. Deep breathing is particularly beneficial because it allows for full oxygen exchange in the body, which slows the heartbeat, stabilizes blood pressure, and increases oxygen flow to every cell in the body.
Research has shown that practicing relaxation techniques, such as focused breathwork, can significantly improve respiratory function in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Regular breathwork has also been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of asthma symptoms, making it easier to breathe. By prioritizing breathing exercises, individuals can improve their respiratory health and reduce the strain on vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and liver.
3) Lowered Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious health risks such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
Focused breathing, however, can be an effective way to lower blood pressure and improve the overall health
- Improved blood flow: Focused breathing can increase blood flow and oxygenation to the body’s tissues and organs, improving circulation and reducing strain on the heart.
- Lowered heart rate: Consistent breathing exercises also lower the heart rate, which helps reduce blood pressure.
- Reduced inflammation: Chronic inflammation can lead to high blood pressure. Focused breathing has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune function.
By practicing focused breathing exercises regularly, you can lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of hypertension-related health problems, and improve your overall well-being. Try incorporating simple breathing techniques into your daily routine to start reaping these health benefits today.
4) Increased Focus and Concentration
Breathwork has a profound effect on one’s subconscious mind, helping to reduce stress and anxiety, promote mental clarity, and increase self-awareness. A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that deep breathing techniques can significantly improve attention span and focus.
Here are some specific benefits of breathing exercises for focus and concentration:
- Clears the mind: Focused breathing can help calm racing thoughts and promote mental clarity, making it easier to stay on task.
- Increases self-awareness: By practicing breathwork, you become more attuned to your own mental and physical state, which can help you identify and eliminate distractions.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety can interfere with focus and concentration, but breathing exercises can help alleviate these feelings, allowing you to better focus on the task at hand.
For those who may have difficulty sitting still or concentrating, modifying breathwork can be beneficial. Some ways to make it easier include:
- Combining breathwork with movement: For those who struggle with sitting still, incorporating gentle movements such as yoga or tai chi can make breathing exercises more accessible.
- Shortening the duration: For those who have trouble maintaining focus for extended periods, shorter, more frequent breathing exercises can be helpful.
- Trying different positions: For those who have difficulty sitting or remaining in one position, breathing exercises can be modified to be done lying down, standing up, or even walking.
For those who have difficulty concentrating due to conditions such as ADHD or anxiety, deep breathing exercises may be more challenging to practice. However, the benefits of focused breathing can be incredibly valuable. In addition to improving concentration, breathwork can also help reduce impulsivity and increase feelings of calm and relaxation.
5) Improved Digestion
Have you ever experienced digestive issues like bloating, gas, acid reflux, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? These conditions can be uncomfortable and frustrating, making it hard to enjoy your favorite foods and feel good in your body. However, studies show that practicing focused breathing can help improve your digestion and alleviate some of these symptoms.
- IBS: Focused breathing can help calm your nervous system, reducing inflammation in your gut and easing symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Acid reflux: Deep breathing can help relax the muscles in your esophagus, preventing stomach acid from flowing back up and causing heartburn
- Food intolerances: Breathing exercises can help reduce stress and inflammation in your digestive system, allowing you to better tolerate certain foods that once caused discomfort.
Stress and anxiety can also have a significant impact on your digestive health. When you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, which can slow down digestion and cause symptoms like nausea and diarrhea. Practicing focused breathing can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress levels, promoting better digestion.
It’s important to remember that good digestion is crucial for absorbing the nutrients your body needs to function properly. When your digestion is impaired, you may experience low energy levels, mood disorders, and even vitamin deficiencies.
6) Better Sleep Quality
Getting enough sleep is vital for our overall health and well-being. The body can not perform or function properly without sufficient rest. It allows our body and mind to recover and rejuvenate, and helps us perform better throughout the day. However, not getting enough sleep or having poor sleep quality can have significant short and long-term health consequences.
Short-term, lack of sleep can cause fatigue, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. But, if we consistently fail to get enough sleep, it can lead to more severe consequences such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early death.
It’s not just about the quantity of sleep we get, though. Quality matters too. Poor sleep quality, such as tossing and turning or snoring, can disrupt the stages of sleep our bodies need for a full recovery. As a result, it can have detrimental health effects, including a weakened immune system, cognitive decline, and an increased risk of depression.
On the other hand, adequate sleep quality can provide us with numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that good sleep quality can help reduce inflammation in the body, regulate hormone levels, improve athletic performance, and boost memory and cognitive function. Additionally, people who get enough quality sleep are more likely to have better mood stability, immune function, and overall life satisfaction.
Science proves that deep breathing has numerous health benefits. While breathwork is often linked to spiritual practices, and may be incorporated into aspects of yoga, prayer, and meditation – it is firmly based in scientific findings. Including breathwork in our everyday activities leads to reduced tension and nervousness, improved lung capacity, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and increased well-being. For more information on the science and benefits of breathwork, contact us today.
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