Deep Breathing Exercises
Turn On Your Inner Power Plant - Part 1
Deep breathing exercises are life changing.
Would you like to make major improvements in your energy, health, and well being, without spending a dime for equipment, doctors, shots, or pills? You can do this by applying simple techniques to something we do automatically thousands of times per day – breathing.
Clinical studies show that 90% of us breathe in a shallow pattern which uses only 25% of our lung capacity. This amounts to an epidemic of bad breathing. The good news is that most anyone can learn deep, healthy breathing, and gain an impressive set of benefits:
- Stress Relief – Ever notice that when we are anxious, our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid? Under these circumstances we breathe from our chest which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and the heart rate is elevated – one step away from fight or flight. Deeper breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system which slows heart rate, and puts our bodies in a resting state.
- Increased energy – Increased oxygen revs up the body’s metabolism giving a person rocket fuel for their day. Your body runs on chemical energy fueled by the oxidation of nutrients in your cells. The more Oxygen made available, the more it feeds the fat and sugar burning reactions in the body's billions of tiny cellular power plants - its like blowing on embers to create a fire.
- An effective weight loss program – Time spent at the gym is good, but at best, you will burn only about 30% of your daily calories through physical exercise. The real fat fighting leverage comes from increasing the body’s equivalent of anytime minutes (basal metabolism) which burns more calories at all times.
- Internal organ and gland massage – The action of the diaphragm moving up and down alternately bathes internal organs with blood and oxygen, providing them with more vitality.
- Better waste removal from the blood stream - 70% of all bodily wastes are removed through exhalation. Too little oxygen causes toxic wastes like carbon dioxide and dead cells, to accumulate in the body and winds up as fat, and causes a sluggish feeling. Long slow exhalations energize the lymph system and efficiently purge waste from the bloodstream.
- Mental clarity – the brain is the largest energy customer in the body. Increased oxygen levels will find their way to the brain for better concentration, creativity, and problem solving abilities.
- Reduced blood pressure and less cardiovascular stress – Confirming the positive effect of breathing on blood pressure, an FDA approved device - the RESPeRate – guides you to gradually lower your breathing rate. It is clinically proven to lower blood pressure. In addition, more highly oxygenated blood, and the muscular action of the diaphragm both take stress off of the heart muscle.
So do you think this list of benefits might keep you healthy, out of the doctor’s office while adding quality years to your life?
Could these claims really be true? Yes! Judging from the amount of supportive medical research, and the history of breathing therapy effectiveness.
You’re probably asking yourself why don’t more doctors today prescribe deep breathing exercises? Good question! The answer seems to lie within both our medical system and within our personal belief systems.
Even with the huge amount of evidence, most conventional doctors don’t know, or don't worry much with this. They have not embraced deep breathing therapy because of the “heal by prescription“system that they are a part of. This is the same system that also largely ignores the positive effects of foods,
and herbs on healing, in favor of popping pills. But isn’t it logical that breathing – the only thing that we cannot live without for more than 3 minutes - is vital to our health and well being?
Most of us have been conditioned to think that in order to lose weight, we need to exercise our buns off to burn calories. We also believe that reducing blood pressure requires medications. And we are certain that to increase personal energy levels, we need to buy a bottle of 5 hour energy boost – and so on. We don’t usually think about breathing as a possible alternative remedy.
Retraining Our Breathing Habits
To switch on our inner power plant, we need to retrain our bodies and minds with conscious deep breathing exercises so that healthy breathing does not get lost in whatever activities we are in, as I learned when my Aikido Sensei once walked over to me during practice and said “breathe while you move!”
Like anyone else who is confronted with such goofy advice I said (with my inside voice) "what do you mean?.....of course I’m breathing!" But as I continued, I became aware of how much I held my breath, and how shallow my breathing actually was. As a result, I began to focus on learning how to coordinate breathing and movement. Doing so has improved my calmness, relaxation, and overall effectiveness in Aikido, and I am certain it can help in most other areas of my life.
In Asia, breathing therapy is considered to be orthodox medicine. Activities like Yoga and
use a focus on the breath for healthcare, enhanced martial arts performance, and even spiritual development through mindfulness.
These cultures have developed hundreds of deep breathing exercises, all with specific benefits for mind and body. Enlightened practitioners in the West have incorporated some of these techniques into their natural health practices.
A simple deep breathing exercise
Deep breathing in its most simple form involves breathing in a way that allows air to reach the lower lobes of the lung. Correct breathing also involves use of the diaphragm, that muscular wall that separates your chest area from your abdomen. Deep breathing exercises include 4 stages: Inhalation, Retention, Exhalation, and Pause.
Here is a more detailed description of a basic breathing exercise that will earn you many of the deep breathing benefits when practiced consistently. It is best to practice them two to three times a day for about 15 minutes.
They will feel a little strange if you have not done them before, but stick with it, and you’ll soon see benefits.
What To Expect
- Inhale – Always inhale through your nose to warm the air, and filter as much of the air impurities as possible. It also gives you the best opportunity to force air to your lower lungs.
Start from a relaxed sitting, lying, or standing position. Expand your diaphragm downward, drawing in air. It should feel as though your belly is expanding with air, and at the same time your lower rib cage and even the lower back expands.
When you can feel that the lower lungs, ribcage, and back are filled, expand the upper rib cage and raise the collarbones slightly to create more room for air. Do not force this, and do it slowly – between 4 and 6 seconds for the whole inhalation process.
- Retain – Gently pull in the lower abdomen a bit until you feel a slight pressure in your abdomen and simply relax while you hold the breath. Start out with a 3 to 5 second retention, and then as you build more confidence, increase the duration up to a maximum of 4 times the duration of the inhale. This allows more time for oxygen to be exchanged in the little grape like lung sacs (alveoli) that exchange oxygen and pick up waste from the blood stream.
- Exhale – Exhalation can be done through the nose or mouth. Initially try it through the mouth. It should be a duration that lasts twice as long as your inhalation. Make sure you squeeze the belly in at the end – to squeeze out all the stale air and waste in the bottom of your lungs. Again do this gently but firmly.
- Pause a few seconds before Inhaling again – this part is optional, but it smooths out the transition between exhalation and inhalation.
After about 15 minutes of a deep breathing exercise, you will feel your body getting warm, and you may start to sweat. Not to worry, this is the natural result of powered up cellular respiration building a healthy fire within your cells. You may also experience a little light headedness at first, as your body adjusts to a new way of breathing.
If at any time, you feel out of breath, or uncomfortable, stop and breathe normally until you can return to your exercise. Have patience and remember that this is not an overnight process. It will take some time, but the results will be worthwhile. There are some good breathing coaches, courses, and other resources for deep breathing exercises, if you wish to get guided instructions. A great resource to start with is to find out how well you breathe now. Take the Optimal Breathing website Free Breathing Tests
The key to deep breathing exercises is to find a smooth pace and rhythm. To start with, try 10 of these breaths three times a day. As you progress, you may experience the happy feeling of endorphins being released into your bloodstream, or a spontaneous movement of energy (chi). At those times, you will find yourself wanting to spend more time with the exercises, and perhaps let it lead you to meditation and spiritual development - a rich reward to be explored in another article.
Most of the time, our breathing is on autopilot - and its a good thing too. We barely think about it, or how it can jumpstart our health. But practicing conscious deep breathing exercises is the perfect plan for keeping us well.
Keep at it, and you will find yourself with a ton of health benefits, and your subconscious mind will eventually cause you to breathe deeply even when not practicing – the ultimate goal.
Deep Breathing Exercises part 2 will add some variations to the basic exercise.
From Deep Breathing Exercises to Alternative Energy Healing