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7 health benefits of deep breathing

by Freya 6 minutes read

Last updated: 24 Jun, 2022

Deep breathing exercises have become an increasingly popular way of improving one's well being, whether that's mental health or physical health.

It is in the action of breathing by contracting the diaphragm, you have to fully engage the diaphragm, stomach, and abdominal muscles doing so.

Diaphragmatic breathing

There are a range of different forms of diaphragmatic breathing, according to Medical News Today, basic diaphragmatic breathing is the simplest form and the easiest to learn, it should last 5-10 minutes and be completed 3-4 times a day. You can do it in the following way:

  • Lie on a flat surface facing upwards with your knees bent and your head supported, you can use a pillow to do this. Have one had on your stomach and the other on your chest

  • Breath slowly through your nose, ensure you you breath deep enough for your stomach to move out against your hand with the other hand remaining still

  • Then tighten your stomach muscles and then let them fall inward as you exhale through puckered lips.

Lion’s breath

Another technique you could try is Lion’s breath, this may look odd when doing it, but it is effective and out of the ordinary.

  • Sit comfortably on your knee or with you legs crossed

  • Place your palms on your knees and apply pressure with your fingers spread wide

  • Take a deep inhale through the nose and open your eyes wide

  • Whilst doing this, open your mouth wide and stick you tongue out with the tip towards your chin

  • As you exhale through your mouth, contract the muscles at the front of your throat while making a long ha sound

  • Do this 2-3 times, 3-5 times a day

Other variations of deep breathing include,

  • Pursed lip breathing

  • Breath focus technique

  • Sitali breathing

  • Equal breathing

  • Alternate nostril breathing

  • Humming bee breath

  • Coherent breathing

Research has shown that deep breathing can have some positive health benefits, including the following.

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1. Helps with depression and anxiety

Studies have shown diaphragmatic breathing can trigger our bodies into relaxation and in return benefits us both physically and mentally.

One study showed that deep breathing can be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for emotion enhancement, this includes a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress levels.

Completing deep breathing techniques will allow you to improve the way you think and feel. If you are able to release any tension and stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression are likely to decrease.

Deep breathing techniques allow our parasympathetic nervous system to act as a prevention to our fight or flight response which often leads to a raise in heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, which can be avoided using these techniques.

2. Can help with headaches

Due to the calming effect breathing deeply has on our bodies, it helps you relax and reduces any muscle tension, including tension that may come with a headache.

Sometimes tension headaches can cause our neck and shoulders to be tense, thus, diaphragmatic breathing can be a great way of releasing this tension and make it easier for you to relax and rest.

3, Lowers blood pressure

Studies have shown that deep breathing is likely to lower blood pressure and can help prevent hypertension (high blood pressure).

One review found that the process of deep breathing produced a decrease in blood pressure readings by around 30 points. However, for this to be effective long term, it is important to continue to practice the methods regularly.

4. Relieves IBS symptoms

Research suggests that IBS can be linked to stress, as stress can cause problems with communication between your brain and digestive system.

Breathing techniques such as belly breathing, can be helpful at reducing stress as well as any anxious feelings that come with it.

According to Dr Megan Elizabeth Riehl, a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Health, the psychological movements of the diaphragm can help relieve any tension in the digestive tract which can be helpful for gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms, diarrhoea and constipation.

5. Can help those with asthma and COPD

Breathing exercises may help improve symptoms, lung function, and quality of life in people with mild to moderate asthma, according to a Cochrane review published in March 2020.

Shallow breathing teaches you to breathe deeper and slower, which can be helpful at retraining yourself how to breathe gently through your nose, rather than your mouth. Buteyko breathing is a good example of this, it helps keep the air you breathe warm and moist which is less irritant on your airways.

Warning: It takes time to perfect breathing techniques, start slowly and ensure you do not try it when you are short of breath.

6. Improves posture and strength

Deep breathing can help to strengthen the muscles used for good posture.

One study found that participating in a daily deep breathing program improved posture. Having good posture makes it easier to take deep breaths.

The act of deep breathing will produce energy for our muscles when participating in physical activity and thus can help strengthen our muscles.

7. Improved focus

Deep breathing exercise can help improve concentration, this can be helpful for those that suffer with mental health issues, as it can be difficult to clear your thoughts and you can become easily distracted by them.

When you use deep breathing for focus, you increase the airflow into your body, allowing more oxygen to enter your bloodstream. This increase in oxygen levels can help to quiet the sympathetic nervous system in your brain, which can help to reduce feelings of anxiety.

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Disclaimer: We provide this information for educational purposes only. No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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