What is deep breathing and what are its benefits?

Have you ever thought about how you breathe?

There are different types of breathing, and one of them, known as deep, slow or diaphragmatic, can be very beneficial for health. Find out why and how you can put it into practice here.

What is deep breathing?

Respiration is a process by which living beings exchange gases with the environment. Although it fulfills many vital functions for the body, the main one is to provide oxygen to the tissues and dispose of the carbon dioxide produced by the cells.

Unlike the breathing that we do naturally without realizing it, deep or diaphragmatic breathing is characterized by the contraction of the diaphragm instead of the rib cage.

The diaphragm lies horizontally between the abdominal and thoracic cavities, as you inhale it contracts and moves downward, allowing the lungs to expand to take in fresh air. As you exhale, the opposite happens, it relaxes and slides up against the chest cavity.

How to breathe deeply?

For many this type of breathing can be confusing and even difficult to put into practice. Fortunately, you can do it simply by following these tips:

  • Start with one hand on your heart and the other on your belly.
  • Inhale through your nose and let the air fill your belly. Notice how the hand on the belly moves while the one on the heart stays the same.
  • As you exhale, pull your navel toward your spine as you simulate blowing out birthday candles. You will notice how the hand on the belly slides down until it reaches its original position.
  • Repeat this exercise three to five times.
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You can complement this process with 4-7-8 breathing, which consists of inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven, and exhaling for eight.

  • Herbs to relieve respiratory problems

Although this exercise may seem difficult at first, as you practice deep breathing you will notice how you will be able to do it without the need to think.

You can also help yourself by using alarms or timers to make sure that the breathing lapses are correct, or reserve times of the day exclusively for deep breathing exercises, in this way you can do them calmly and without getting distracted.

What are the benefits of deep breathing?

You can do deep breathing if you practice different relaxation techniques or activities, such as tai chi or yoga.

You can also reserve a time of day to do it, for example, before bed or when you first wake up. In one way or another, by incorporating this type of breathing into your routine you can obtain different benefits:

Promotes relaxation

When we are scared or angry, the muscles tense, making it difficult to breathe and limiting the amount of oxygen that the cells and tissues receive.

During deep breathing, a series of processes occur that promote better respiratory quality and relaxation, such as slowing down the heart rate or greater oxygen absorption.

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There is even evidence that those who frequently practice this form of breathing, through other techniques such as yoga or tai chi, have lower levels of cortisol (hydrocortisone), a hormone that is released in response to stress

During deep breathing, the body also releases endorphins, other hormones with analgesic effects that produce a feeling of well-being and even euphoria.

In addition, slow, deep, and long breathing is often recommended as an exercise before going to sleep, especially for people who suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia.

improve posture

Posture is the way the body is held or supported. Can be:

  • static: refers to how the body is maintained when you are not in motion, that is, while you sleep, stand or sit.
  • Dynamic: refers to how you support your body in motion, while walking, running, crouching or performing all kinds of actions.

Changes in posture usually occur due to:

  • Bad habits, such as sitting slouched and not standing properly.
  • Having inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion, affecting how far a joint can move.
  • Having weak muscles that encourage the fall, leaning the body forward, causing imbalance and frequent pain.

However, one factor that can cause poor posture and often goes unnoticed is poor breathing. Therefore, many experts encourage deep breathing to correct this problem.

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When doing it, you can notice how filling the lungs with air forces the spine to straighten and promotes good posture.

Improves digestion

Practicing deep breathing is linked to benefits for digestion because it provides more oxygen to all cells and tissues in the body, including those in the digestive system.

In addition, this type of breathing increases blood flow, stimulating intestinal action.

Better defenses

Carbon dioxide is a natural toxic waste that is expelled from our body through breathing.

When the lungs are compromised by shallow breathing, the body must resort to other processes to expel toxins, which can weaken it.

Putting deep breathing into practice can help prevent this problem, while guaranteeing a significant amount of oxygen to the cells and tissues of the body, thus improving their function and preventing various injuries or diseases.

Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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