Many doctors and yoga practitioners suggest deep breathing exercises to improve overall health and help relax. It is the best method to relax both physically and mentally.
In this busy era, we often feel stressed and anxious due to strenuous work and busy life. Therefore, you should concentrate on the mentally active relaxation technique to achieve a relaxed, calm, and focused mind.
Deep or diaphragmatic breathing helps improve lung capacity and provides a greater area for gas exchange while breathing. Deep breathing increases the oxygen supply to our brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in relaxation and calmness. It brings your attention away from your worries and helps you feel more connected to your inner self.
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, the volunteers who performed regular deep breathing exercises had better lung function and increased pulmonary vital capacity.
According to various studies, daily practice of deep or abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes significantly improve lung health and reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
How to perform deep or diaphragmatic breathing exercises?
Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is easy to perform. Its solemn aim is to focus on the rise and fall of the abdomen while breathing. The following are the steps of the deep breathing exercise:
- Lie on your back on a flat surface or yoga mat, or sit comfortably on a chair and maintain your posture.
- You can add a pillow under your head and knees for better comfort.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen immediately below the rib cage. This posture can lead you to feel your diaphragm moving as you breathe.
- Inhale slowly through your nostrils, and feel the air move towards your belly. The hand on your chest should be still while breathing in, while the hand on your abdomen should lift upward with abdomen movement.
- Hold your breath for at least three seconds.
- When you exhale through your nose, tighten your abdominal muscles inward and let them fall inward during breathing out. You can notice the movement of the hand on your belly.
You should try to practice deep breathing exercises for at least 5-10 minutes twice or thrice a day if possible.
What are the benefits of deep breathing exercises?
Deep breathing is one of the simple and most convenient tools to improve lung capacity, combat stress and anxiety, reduce blood pressure levels, and improve overall health. The following are a few benefits of deep breathing:
- Improves lung capacity:
Diaphragmatic breathing can strengthen the diaphragm, one of the most crucial breathing muscles, as 80% of the breathing process occurs through the diaphragm. It also improves the efficacy of accessory breathing muscles, leading to ease in breathing in people with COPD, asthma, and damaged lung tissues due to smoking.
- Enhances energy levels:
Deep breathing leads to increase oxygen intake in our blood. It improves every organ’s functioning and boosts stamina.
- Removes toxins:
Breathing removes most of our body’s toxins, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other waste products. When you do not breathe fully, your body has to work overtime to remove these toxins. On the other hand, deep breathing improves breathing and detoxifies our system efficiently.
- Reduces stress:
Deep breathing increases the endorphins (feel-good hormones) levels and decreases cortisol hormone levels. A decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) levels can stimulate the brain to be calm and relaxed.
- Boosts immunity:
Deep breathing causes more oxygen to enter our blood. Fully oxygenated blood allows your body to absorb nutrients and vitamins more efficiently, which improves immunity.
- Aid in digestion:
When you regularly practice deep breathing, your body starts functioning more efficiently, including your intestines, due to a healthier blood flow.
- Regulates blood pressure:
Deep breathing relaxes muscles and dilates blood vessels, which improves blood circulation, regulates heart rhythm, and lowers blood pressure levels.
Deep breathing exercise focuses on filling the abdomen while inhalation, despite the chest. You can perform it anywhere, so gradually incorporate this exercise into your daily routine and notice the difference within a few days. In addition to enhancing lung health, deep breathing helps relieve stress, anxiety, and muscle tension and boosts our immune system.
Dr. Nitin Rathi | Senior Consultant – Pulmonology | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi