Take a deep breath

We do it without thinking, but if we spend a little more time focusing on how we breathe, the health benefits are immediate.

Read on to learn how breathing helps every system in the body…

Breath improves the cardiovascular system
Deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organs. In one study of heart attack patients, 100% of the patients were chest breathers whose breathing involved very little diaphragm or belly expansion. Another study found that heart attack survivors who adopted an exercise regime and breath training experienced a 50% reduction in their risk factor of another heart attack over the following five years.

Breath elevates the digestive system 
Deeper breathing results in increased blood flow in the digestive tract. This encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion. As a result, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and constipation are alleviated. In addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn enhances optimum digestion.

Breath affects our mental state 
The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhance the ability to learn, concentrate and memorise. The brain requires a great deal of oxygen to function and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity and feel grounded and productive. It also relieves stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns. Breathing properly can help us overcome addictive patterns of behaviour and eating disorders, as well as igniting creativity and passion.

Breath keeps us looking youthful 
It’s a universal truth that a happy face is more beautiful than a stressed or angry one. Even better news: breathing deeply slows the ageing process by increasing secretion of anti-ageing hormones! By reducing stress, it improves our mood, which elevates the levels of serotonin and endorphins.

Find your peaceful ‘anchor’
Breathing consciously is an effective way to transform energy. When you are in the grip of a reaction, you may notice your breathing is shallow or rapid, your throat gets tight, you can feel a pulsating sensation in your tummy or your solar plexus. Your face may get hot or your chest may start to tighten. When you feel centred, happy or peaceful, you breathe with ease. One of the benefits of conscious breathing is to help you find your centre, or anchor, as I prefer to call it. That anchor is just below your belly button.

Breath detoxifies, releases toxins and strengthens the immune system 
Around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste product of your body’s metabolism. Breathing deeply helps the systems in the body to process this more efficiently.

Breath increases energy 
Oxygen is the most essential natural resource required by our cells. We can go without food for up to 40 days and without water for three days, yet we can die after just a few minutes of not breathing. From a purely physical point of view, breath equals life.

Breath improves the respiratory system 
Breathing deeply helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. Breathing opens up the chest, which releases tension from the intercostal muscles, the muscles surrounding the scapula, erector spinae and trapezius muscles, allowing for a more relaxed posture.

Breath calms the nervous system 
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us into a relaxed state. It functions in the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the fight-or-flight response.

Breath strengthens the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system depends on gravity, muscle movement and breathing to keep flowing so that the body can be cleansed. Deep breathing can play an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses and other threats to our health.

Breath releases muscle tension 
When we are stressed or experience uncomfortable feelings such as anger or pain, our breath becomes shallow and our muscle tissues contract. Deep breathing helps to release this.

This article was originally published in Issue 3, Breathe Magazine – Restore Serenity.