Before you read any further, take a moment to take a deep breath- really! While breathing is the most basic biological function, it is often overlooked. However, actively breathing offers a variety of physical and mental health benefits. For that reason, Dr. Gray and her team are focusing on the importance of breathing this month as a part of her series for getting back to basics in 2022.
The Importance of Breathing
Have you ever thought about what your body is actually doing when breathing oxygen into your body? Simply, breathing is the process of moving air into and from the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, specifically to flush out carbon dioxide and bring in oxygen, thus producing energy.
Modern research in pulmonology, psychology, biochemistry, and human physiology is showing that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can help jump start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs, halt snoring, aid with allergies, asthma, and some autoimmune disorders, as well as even straighten your spine.
Additionally, proper breathing also:
- Helps your muscles to relax
- Can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure
- Can reduce feelings of stress or anxiety
- Releases endorphins which can boost your mood
Types of Breathing Exercises
You might be thinking, I breathe all of the time, how can I incorporate even more breathing into my daily routine? While you’re correct in that your body and brain unconsciously breathe for you, actively completely breathing exercises or techniques can help you to take control of your breath, and feel those benefits even more so.
One of Dr. Gray’s favorite breathing technique is the 4-7-8 technique, otherwise known as relaxing breath. The purpose is to truly focus on taking a long and deep breath in and out repeatedly. You can practice this technique by:
- First sit in a comfortable position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth
- Empty your lungs of any air
- Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the air your just breathed in for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
Another type of breathing is nose breathing specifically! Nose breathing is especially helpful as it:
- Increases air flow to arteries, veins, and nerves
- Improves lung capacity
- Strengthens the diaphragm
- Lowers your risk of allergies and hay fever
- Reduces coughing
- Aids your immune system
- Lowers risks of snoring and sleep apnea
- Supports the correct formation of teeth and mouth
- Increases oxygen uptake and circulation
Lastly, deep breathing is important for taking a moment to pause, recenter, and actually relax. Oftentimes people take short and shallow breaths which can cause a feeling of anxiousness and even exhaust you. By taking deep breaths, you can be certain that the oxygen entering your body actually reaches your stomach vs. stopping in your throat.
So take a deep breath, recenter, refocus, and be sure to use some of these tips and tricks throughout your day to practice healthy breathing habits!