For being FREE and incomparably easy to practice, Deep Breathing can be a fairly miraculous healing exercise. It can reduce anxiety and bring us into the present moment through mindfulness. It can reduce blood pressure and damaging cortisol. We all inherently know that a few deep breaths have the ability to relax us but what is really happening from a physiological perspective?
Before understanding deep breathing you need to understand how your body responds to stress. Most of us understand when our body responds to stress because we’re worried or upset. Our hearts start to beat faster, you can feel dizzy as blood rushes toward your heart and brain. The system responsible for this response is the sympathetic nervous system and the reaction is our “Fight or Flight” response.
Our bodies were designed to prepare for threats in our environment. In the modern world we aren’t often experiencing outside threats as much and we deal with low level constant stress which keeps our bodies on alert. Our sympathetic nervous system is constantly filling our systems with cortisol and adrenaline and we often feel anxious.
Deep Breathing is a way we can reduce our bodies stress response. Deep Breathing triggers the Vagus Nerve which will activate the Parasympathetic Nervous system which acts as a brake on the stress response. The vagus nerve, along with stimulating our bodies relaxation response, can inhibit inflammation, slow down the heart and even help make memories.
How do we do deep breathing?
1) Set aside 2 minutes once or twice a day to slow down your breath.
2) Breath in for 4 counts, breath out for 8 counts.
3) Conversely, Dr Weil suggests: Breath in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, breath out for 8 counts.
Most people don’t really recognize the constant and chronic stress levels our bodies are under. Being consistent with this breathing exercise will actually help your body’s baseline relaxation level and will help us be more calm in a normal state.