• Magda Karas

Deep Breath In.......and Out......

Stress is one of the silent killers of today. With our lives being busy. With the constant need or demand of being connected. With less and less time spent close to nature, it is only natural that our stress levels are accumulating over time and are negatively affecting our wellbeing.

Stress can often manifest itself in different ways. As you would have read in many of our blogs, stress leads to systemic inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, fatigue and many other problems.

The good news is that there are many ways that we can help to reduce the stress levels and encourage ‘rest and digest’ mode to allow our body time to heal. There are many methods to deal with stress. One of them is breathing exercises.

So how breathing affects our emotions? When you are nervous, stressed, angry or anxious it is very likely that your breathing will change. Multiple research has shown that different emotions can be associated with different breathing. For example, when we feel nervous or angry, our breathing becomes irregular, short, fast and shallow. On the other hand, when you are relaxed your breathing tends to be deep, regular and slow.

The great news is that we can use this knowledge to our advantage and use breathing to change our emotions.

Slowing down and deepening your breathing signals relaxation, helps to slow down heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that runs from the brain stem to abdomen and it is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ mode. Being in a parasympathetic system helps the body not only heal, but it also helps with making more rational decisions, thinking more clearly and overall feeling and functioning better.

So what actually happens to your body when you breathe deeply? Well,for a starter, although deep breathing, when we let our chest expand and belly to rise, may not feel natural at first, it is a natural way of breathing. It can reduce stress by increased oxygen exchange, which then reduces blood pressure, slows heart rate and releases any tension held in the abdomen.

The beauty of breathing exercises is that you can do them anywhere and it doesn’t cost you anything. So really, there are no excuses not to do them. One of the simplest ways to start breathing exercises is to focus on deep abdominal breathing. Let your belly raise/ or hang out if you are sitting. Breath slowly through your nose. Allow your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Then slowly breathe out. You can change this exercise by inhaling for count to four and exhaling through the mount on count to eight.

You can also try to hold the breath in for a second before you exhale. So inhale on count to four, hold for a second and exhale for seven counts.

The brief movement of holding the breath will help to strengthen the breathing muscles. You can also amend the position of your tongue if you want to use breathing for relaxation.

On inhale, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind the top teeth. As you breathe in through your nose, count down from five. On exhale, let the air out through your mouth as for a count of eight.

Another way to improve relaxation through breathing is nostril breathing. This is a technique that when you switch the nostrils on inhale and exhale. Inhale deeply through your right nostril, then at the peak of inhalation, switch the nostrils and exhale through the left one. Focus your mind on the inflow and outflow of the air.

As you do your breathing exercise, you can also use visualization to increase the relaxation element of the activity. Imagine that as you inhale, all the stress in your body is coming from your extremities into your chest. Then on exhale, imagine that the whole stress is leaving your body and dissipating into the air. Repeat as many times as you feel needed.

Improving functioning of our nervous system is usually combination of many things such as exercise, getting regular chiropractic adjustments, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and so on. The list is long. We would have thought that breathing is something that we should naturally do right, but it isn’t. As we go through life, we pick up bad habits of doing pretty much any of the basic natural things. Therefore implementing breathing exercises in your daily routine will help you get your nervous system into the rest and digest mode and will give you better chance to function at optimal level.

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