Every day we wake up, go to work and go to sleep breathing. It’s a completely unconscious action mastered by the human body. It’s the same as blinking. Put your mind to it and you can regulate eyelid movement, but eyelids will continue to blink regardless because the eye needs to be refreshed.
By comparison, the lungs need oxygen to fuel the entire body. Unless you are engaging in aerobic exercise, yoga or some other form of controlled breathing, your lungs are probably at rest mostly using the natural elasticity of the lung tissue to respire.
In order to breathe deeply, like when exercising, you need to engage the diaphragm. This muscle is like a trampoline under your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing opens the rib cage to allow lungs to expand and also helps push out carbon dioxide with every exhale.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise
To start practicing, put a hand on your belly and a hand on your rib cage. As you breathe in, your belly should rise with your ribs. Exhaling delivers the opposite effect to the belly and ribs. Try to count to ten with each breath in and out.
This type of breathing is incorporated into meditation. Focusing on the steady flow of air brings peace to the mind. Pranayama, practiced by some yoga enthusiasts, is loosely translated into drawing life force or vitality in. This form of meditation uses controlled, meditative breathing to strengthen the mind.
There are a number of variations on controlled breathing in meditation. Tai Chi practitioners have their own form of controlled breathing techniques synced to their movements. Runners and swimmers that reach a “zone” or a runner’s high have their own breathing techniques to reach their place of zen.
The Benefits of Deep Meditative Breathing
In any case, the benefits of deep, meditative breathing have been medically documented. People with high stress or anxiety decrease stress and blood pressure by daily breathing practices. There is a movement to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with yoga and meditative breathing. Asthmatics can control mild attacks by using deep breathing exercises to relax their stress response and increase their lung capacity. Studies show weight loss benefits because muscles are better oxygenated and the metabolism is increased.
For people who don’t deal with anxiety, asthma or high stress, deep breathing is still a profoundly rewarding practice. Long-time practitioners claim that meditative breathing can help extend your life. If nothing else, people have reported better mood and brain function thanks to their higher blood oxygen levels. It’s also great for inspiring singers looking to strengthen their diaphragm and increase lung capacity.
To enjoy the benefits of meditative breathing, devote as little as ten minutes a day to practicing your technique. There doesn’t appear to be a dangerous consequence for deep breathing, but do discuss it with your doctor especially if you are pregnant or have a serious heart condition. Otherwise, enjoy meditative breathing. Hopefully, it becomes a life-long practice.
Inspire your friends and share this article about deep meditative breathing.
Written on behalf of Robert Koenig, accident attorney.