Is it vital to health or Yogi mumbo jumbo? Let the Science decide...
We live in an age where multi-tasking and hustling are top priorities for those wanting to climb the career ladder.
Determination is a positive trait, but when it leads us to spread ourselves too thinly we risk anxiety, depression and even burnout.
Stopping to take a breath in such a fast paced world often doesn't feel like it should be a top priority, but the simple act of breathing deeply, regularly through out the day has numerous benefits to your health and overall wellbeing.
1. Improved stress management
Effective stress management is one of the biggest challenges we face today. With smart technology following us everywhere we go, it's really no surprise people are struggling to switch off. Fortunately, reducing stress is one of the most notable benefits of mindful deep breathing as it can physically alter the status of your nervous system from 'high alert' to 'rest'.
Taking just 10 deep, slow and steady breathes is enough for the vagus nerve to signal to your nervous system to lower your heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels (the 'stress hormone').
2. Reduced anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are at an all time high. If you're struggling, asking for help from a medical practitioner is essential but so is allowing yourself the time you need to self care. Deep breathing exercises allow you to find relief from psychological distress in a safe and healthy way by causing physical changes in your body. It causes your body to release endorphins, or 'happy hormones' - the chemicals in your brain that help you feed good.
3. Decreased pain
Tension and stress can exacerbate your body's pain response. An easy way to reduce the amount of pain you experience is to practice deep breathing. Not only does it mindfully help to put you in a more relaxed position, but the endorphins released also play a critical role in decreasing your perception of pain.
4. Higher energy levels
This might seem contradictory, given it's a calming exercise but when you supply your blood with higher levels of oxygen through breathing deeply, it actually helps increase your energy. This plays an important part in boosting your mood and allowing you to feel more alert throughout the day.
5. Improved immunity
Regular practise can positively impact your immune system. The increase in oxygen levels (known as oxygenation) helps transport vital nutrients more efficiently, which allows your body to get the most out of these vitamins. This process is essential to building immunity; the more quickly your body receives these important nutrients, the faster it can fight off and recover from illness.
6. Reduced blood pressure
Breathing deeply helps relax your muscles. When this happens, your blood vessels begin to dilate, which stimulates circulation. Improved circulation is vital to decreased blood pressure, which enables you to feel calmer and more centred.
One of the most essential deep breathing benefits is a healthier heart rate, which directly contributes to lower blood pressure. Deep breathing regularly can help you keep your entire cardiovascular system strong and healthy.
7. Faster recovery
An intense workout can take a toll on your body. You might feel sore or fatigued while recovering and deep breathing has been shown to improve the way your body responds to demanding forms of exercise. Not only does it help your body grow more accustomed to exhausting workouts, but also reduces your changes of injury.
8. Improved muscle stability
There's always lots of talk about core strength these days, but you may not know the reason for this is that keeping these body parts strong is essential to good overall balance and stability (which is of huge benefit as we age). It's not just important if you exercise or play sport, it's also help you engage in everyday activities like sitting properly, climbing stairs, picking things up from the floor and making the bed. By consistently practicing deep breathing exercises, you can improve your core stability a little bit at a time.
Why not try it out?
We'd suggest you aim to take 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 5 times a day to focus on your breath. Find a quiet spot, or just sit up straight at your desk with your chest open (i.e. stick it out, you'll feel your lungs open as soon as you do!), put in some earphones and close your eyes. If you're a member and want to try some guided audio or video meditations, just head over to the On demand page.