Mindful Breathing: Deep Breathing For Your Health

For many, breath­ing requires lit­tle effort or thought. For some, how­ev­er, stress and anx­i­ety can lead to short, rapid breath­ing which can wors­en these symp­toms. A great way to avoid feel­ings of stress, anx­i­ety and short­ness of breath is to con­scious­ly focus on the breaths you take each day. Almost every­one is capa­ble of tak­ing deep, pow­er­ful breaths, but the prac­tice is often lost to demand­ing sched­ules and activities.

Pul­mo­nolo­gist, Dr. Christo­pher Ochoa, shares his expert advice on deep breath­ing and tech­niques to help you jump-start your breath­ing practice. 

What is deep breathing?

Com­mon­ly referred to as abdom­i­nal breath­ing, bel­ly breath­ing or diaphrag­mat­ic breath­ing — the prac­tice of deep breath­ing is one of the body’s most pow­er­ful heal­ing mech­a­nisms. Deep breath­ing dif­fers from our nor­mal, uncon­scious breaths in that it requires you to focus on tak­ing slow­er, deep­er breaths. 

When you relax your body to breathe in ful­ly and deeply, your diaphragm and lungs are pushed to work at their full capac­i­ty. In addi­tion to releas­ing stress, deep breath­ing can help low­er your blood pres­sure, improve blood flow and relax tense muscles.

Tech­niques for deep breathing

You can per­form deep breath­ing any­where, in only a mat­ter of min­utes. Deep breath­ing tech­niques can even com­pli­ment oth­er activ­i­ties you enjoy, such as yoga and med­i­ta­tion, or become part of your bed­time rou­tine. While you can per­son­al­ize your breath­ing prac­tice in a way that works best for you, the fol­low­ing tips can help get you started:

  • Start by find­ing a calm, peace­ful area to sit or lie down. This can be your favorite room or, if pressed for time, your desk or break room.
  • Close your eyes and try to focus on the moment, tak­ing a few reg­u­lar breaths to get situated.
  • Keep­ing your eyes closed, place one hand over your stom­ach just below your ribs and the oth­er on your chest.
  • Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose.
  • Hold your breath for a sec­ond or two.
  • Slow­ly and deeply exhale out through your mouth.
  • Pay close atten­tion to the way your hands move with each breath and feel your body start to relax.
  • Repeat breaths until you find a calm, com­fort­able rhythm.
  • Try adding images to your breath­ing prac­tice. For instance, as you inhale, imag­ine you are tak­ing in all the pos­i­tive ener­gy around you. When exhal­ing, imag­ine you are expelling all the stress and neg­a­tive ener­gy from your body.
  • Con­tin­ue this cycle for about five to ten min­utes or until you feel relaxed and stress-free.

With our hec­tic sched­ules, it can be dif­fi­cult to find time to prac­tice self-care in order to stay in tune with our bod­ies. How­ev­er, the way you breathe affects your whole body and ded­i­cat­ing a few min­utes each day to mind­ful breath­ing can pos­i­tive­ly impact both your day-to-day and long-term health. So, whether you want to restore a healthy rhythm, decom­press or both, mind­ful breath­ing can help you relax no mat­ter where you are. For more tips on deep breath­ing, or to sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our pul­mo­nolo­gists, please vis­it our Pul­monary Med­i­cine page.

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