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Breathwork: How Deep Breathing Changes Your Physiology

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Breathwork: How Deep Breathing Changes Your Physiology

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding moments of peace and relaxation can feel like a luxury. However, one powerful tool that is readily available to everyone is breathwork. While often overlooked, deep breathing techniques have been practiced for centuries across various cultures for their profound effects on both the body and mind. In this article, we will explore how breathwork can positively impact your physiology and overall wellbeing.

breathwork and relaxation techniques

Understanding breathwork

Breathwork, also known as controlled breathing or conscious breathing, involves the deliberate manipulation of one’s breath patterns to achieve specific outcomes. It encompasses a wide range of techniques, from simple deep breathing exercises to more structured practices like Pranayama in yoga traditions. This isn’t the first time we have written about breathwork. You can check out our post ‘Breathwork: The Power of Breathing‘ to get a wider view on the benefits of breathwork!

 

The physiology of deep breathing

When you take a deep breath, your diaphragm contracts, causing your lungs to expand and fill with air. This action stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a relaxation response in the body. As a result, several physiological changes occur:

Reduced stress hormones

Breathwork enhances hormonal health through mechanisms such as stress reduction via activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to decreased cortisol levels and improved hormonal balance.

Deep breathing also improves circulation, ensuring efficient transport of hormones throughout the body, while stimulating the vagus nerve supports relaxation and well-being!

Breathwork can also be combined with mindfulness practices to cultivate awareness of stressors and emotions, empowering you to manage them effectively. For more quick hacks to de-stress quickly, check out our post ‘How to Feel Better: 5 Hacks to Shift Your Mood in Under 5 Minutes‘.

Improved oxygenation

Breathwork improves oxygenation by promoting deep breathing techniques that expand lung capacity. When lung capacity improves, gas exchange in the lungs becomes more efficient and more oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. Breathwork also induces vasodilation (opening of blood vessels) which improves blood circulation, and in turn oxygenation! More on this next.

Lowered blood pressure

Breathwork can lower blood pressure in a few ways. Breathwork stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels (vasodilation!), further improving blood flow and contributing to lower blood pressure.

When combined with mindfulness and meditation practices, breathwork fosters emotional regulation and reduces the body’s response to stress, ultimately leading to long-term improvements in blood pressure levels.

Please note, individuals with hypertension should consult healthcare professionals before incorporating breathwork into their routines.

Enhanced immune function

Improved oxygenation means a stronger immune system, as oxygen is essential for immune cell function and overall immune system health.

Breathwork also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress hormones such as cortisol, which can suppress immune function when chronically elevated. By promoting relaxation and reducing stress, breathwork supports a balanced immune response. Isn’t that wild!

Breathwork practices often involve mindfulness and meditation, which have been linked to enhanced immune function through their ability to reduce inflammation and promote a sense of well-being. Overall, regular practice of breathwork can strengthen the immune system, helping to defend against pathogens.

 

Breathwork and relaxation techniques

Breathwork is closely intertwined with various relaxation techniques, serving as a foundational element in practices such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. Here’s how breathwork complements these techniques:

Mindfulness meditation

In mindfulness meditation, practitioners focus on their breath as a means of anchoring their attention to the present moment. Deep, rhythmic breathing helps quiet the mind, cultivate awareness, and foster a sense of inner peace.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR involves systematically tensing and releasing muscle groups throughout the body to induce physical relaxation. Deep breathing acts as a synergistic component, enhancing the effectiveness of this technique by promoting relaxation at both the muscular and mental levels.

Guided imagery

Guided imagery utilises visualisation and imagination to evoke a state of deep relaxation and mental clarity. Deep breathing serves as a bridge between the conscious mind and the subconscious, facilitating the absorption of positive imagery and promoting a sense of serenity.

 

Incorporating breathwork into your routine

Now that we understand the profound impact of breathwork on our physiology and its synergy with relaxation techniques, let’s explore practical ways to incorporate it into our daily lives:

Start with awareness

Begin by cultivating awareness of your breath throughout the day. Take moments to pause and observe the quality of your breathing, making a conscious effort to deepen and slow down your breath when needed.

Establish a regular practice

Set aside dedicated time each day for breathwork exercises. This could be in the form of a brief morning routine, a midday relaxation break, or an evening wind-down ritual.

Experiment with different techniques

Explore various breathwork techniques to find what resonates best with you. Whether it’s diaphragmatic breathing (check out this post on the best postures for diaphragmatic breathing!), alternate nostril breathing, or square breathing, there are countless methods to choose from.

Integrate with other relaxation practices

Incorporate breathwork into your existing relaxation routines, such as yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. Experiment with combining different techniques to enhance their effectiveness.

 

Summary

Breathwork offers a simple yet powerful gateway to relaxation and physiological well-being. By harnessing the innate power of our breath, we can tap into a natural source of calmness, resilience, and vitality. Whether you’re seeking stress relief, improved focus, or better sleep, integrating breathwork into your daily routine can lead to profound transformations in both body and mind. So take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and embrace the transformative potential of breathwork in your life.

Want to get started right away?

You can check out these videos – 5 Minute Calming Breathwork

And here is a pregnancy safe one incase you’re pregnant – Pranayama for Pregnancy

P.S. If you enjoyed, this you might like our post ‘Wellness Trends in 2024: Our Predictions‘. Check it out!

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