What are the health benefits of breathing exercises?

By Vladimir Marchenko

  1. What is breathing
  2. You need to breathe through your nose
  3. The consequences of improper breathing
  4. Why breathe correctly
  5. Diaphragm breathing
  6. Meditative breathing
  7. Anti-stress breathing
  8. Breathing during exercise
  9. Enhancing mental health

What is breathing

Breathing is a natural physiological process that the body needs to perform vital functions. For example, such as stable saturation of cells with oxygen with subsequent removal of waste products (carbon dioxide, water, etc.) into the environment, metabolism, homeostasis (permanence of the internal environment and self-regulation). There is also the oxidation of substances saturated with chemical energy to simpler ones, consisting of carbon dioxide and water, and some other processes.

girl breathing at winter
At rest, one passes through 6-8 liters of air per minute. For athletes at the peak of their activity, this indicator rises to 120-140 liters per minute

The benefits of breathing practices are repeatedly mentioned in shamanism, religious teachings, yoga, psychology. For example, one of the Indian proverbs sounds like this: "The mind masters the senses, and the breath masters the mind." In addition, improper breathing (in ordinary life we barely breathe in more than half the volume of the lungs) provokes many ills: from insomnia to cardiovascular diseases.

You need to breathe through your nose

This seemingly banal rule is very often ignored. Especially with physical exertion or excessive excitement. But there are natural "filters" in the nose that prevent toxins, allergens, and pathogens from entering the body, which is especially important during a pandemic. While inhaling air through the mouth, we seem to open a "gate" for everything bad that is contained in the environment, despite the presence of tonsils, which also partially perform a protective function. Also, breathing through the nose warms the incoming air and moisturizes it. Breathing out through the mouth is allowed when playing sports, doing breathing practices or having a medical condition.

The consequences of improper breathing

Often, problems with normal ventilation of the lungs arise through the fault of the person themself and / or in the following cases:

  • not knowing about correct breathing techniques;
  • too frequent and shallow breaths;
  • smoking;
  • staying in poorly ventilated rooms for a long time;
  • lack of walks in the fresh air;
  • uncomfortable position when working at the table;
  • physical overload;
  • the presence of chronic diseases, allergies, etc.

Despite the apparent expansion of the chest during typical (unconscious) breaths, the lungs are involved in about 20-30% of their volume. The situation is even worse in a state of stress, when a person feverishly begins to make frequent shallow breaths, compensating for the lack of air. In fact, with shallow breathing, the blood and brain do not receive enough oxygen, the pulse accelerates and blood pressure rises, and dizziness occurs.

sportsman tired
During sports, arterial and intra-abdominal pressure sometimes rise due to too deep inhalation / exhalation or due to their rapid alternation

Due to the lack of oxygen, the decay products do not burn out completely, toxins accumulate in the body, and the venous blood is not completely purified. One feels heaviness, headaches, weakness, he or she does not want to do anything, except to lie down and sleep. Over time, this provokes the development of certain diseases. In fact, by depriving the body of enough oxygen, we are poisoning it.

Of course, labored breathing is often not a cause, but a consequence of existing ills. For example, when it comes to lung damage, tumors and brain injuries, etc.

Why breathe correctly

Although breathing is an “automatic” process, it is quite manageable, even if not 24/7. Mindful breathing allows you to control thoughts, focus on the sensations of the body, and also has a positive effect on health:

  • reduces stress level;
  • activates the parasympathetic nervous system and neutralizes some manifestations of vegetative vascular dystonia;
  • normalizes blood circulation in the brain, which improves its work;
  • improves memory;
  • minimizes headache;
  • helps to cope with insomnia;
  • normalizes metabolism, burns fat;
  • strengthens the heart muscle;
  • improves the quality of skin and hair, etc.

Diaphragm breathing

The simplest way to breathe properly involves using the diaphragm (the fine muscle located between the chest and abdomen) more actively. First you need to check if you are doing everything right anyway.

1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent.

2. Place your right hand on your stomach and your left hand on your chest.

3. Watch your breathing, can you concentrate on it?

4. If you breathe correctly, your hand on your stomach should rise and fall smoothly and evenly. The hand on the chest should barely move.

5. Try to breathe so that the belly “works”. That is, as you inhale, push it up as much as possible, and as you exhale, draw it in. Yes, it is not easy, but this is how it should be done.

Diaphragm breathing

You can also count the number of breaths per minute. There should be about 15-20 of them. If you take more than 20 breaths per minute, then you are probably breathing shallowly and faster. Frequent sighing and yawning also indicate irregular breathing.

Meditative breathing

One of the types of relaxing breathing is meditative. It requires comfortable conditions and concentration.

1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed and keep your back straight.

2. Take several deep and controlled breaths through your nose. Make sure that the belly increases in volume.

3. Breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth, focusing exclusively on the breath and getting rid of any thoughts.

4. Breathe evenly without distraction for 3-5 minutes. For the first time, this is enough; in the future, you can increase the meditation time.

5. If the first time you can't concentrate and thoughts constantly jump back and forth, do not be discouraged. The practice of mindfulness involves a smooth entry into the desired state.

yoga relax breathing

Anti-stress breathing

If you are having anxiety or panic attacks, you can try an emergency breathing technique. First of all, you should breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on inhaling through the nose and noisy exhales through the mouth. When a panic attack occurs, you can inhale for three seconds, hold your breath for the same time and exhale slowly through your lips folded into a tube. To prevent hyperventilation, slowly inhale air through the nose for 7-8 seconds, and then slowly exhale for 11-12 seconds.

Of course, there are a lot of breathing practices, but the essence of most of them boils down to the conscious and asymmetric control of air flows in the lungs (that is, delays with different duration of inhalation and exhalation) and using the diaphragm more.

Breathing during exercise

Sports activities are conventionally divided into strength and cardio. Therefore, depending on the selected type of load, the appropriate type of breathing should be selected.

1. During strength training, people work with weights. The main effort during such exercises is done at the inhalation. That is, when opposing the resistance, lifting the load, inhale, and during the greatest muscle tension, lowering the weight, exhale. Holding your breath during strength training is not recommended; you can do this only for a few seconds. Pay attention to the performances of weightlifters, they raise the barbell while inhaling, briefly fix the projectile, and then abruptly throw it, exhaling noisily. This allows you to focus on effort, reduces stress on the back and cardiovascular system.

2. During cardio training (running, cycling, fitness), oxygen consumption increases several times. Breathing in this case should be uniform. In addition, the fact that the inhalation is physiologically slightly shorter than the exhalation has an effect, which is why, during morning exercise, schoolchildren are usually taught to breathe "one-two". It is very important to synchronize your breathing with the pace of the exercises performed and the uniform body movements. For example, for running, it looks like this - with a slow movement, inhalation is taken every 3-4 steps, with a fast one - every 2 steps.

woman fitnes tired
If you feel unwell and cannot normalize breathing in any way, it is better to stop training, and then resume with less intensity or with less heavy equipment

Enhancing mental health

Proper breathing improves not only physical performance, but also has a positive effect on mental health, puts thoughts in order, soothes and helps to concentrate on your own feelings. Therefore, breathing can be practiced in conjunction with other techniques that serve the same purpose. Listening to relaxing tunes or affirmations is a good idea. Such a set can be found, for example, in the Hypnopedia app, which helps you to calm down before falling asleep by combining breathing techniques with soothing sounds or short motivating statements. You can create different combinations from the available sounds, choosing the optimal background.

Affirmations are available for listening during the day, but they do most of the work of improving mental health at night. This became possible thanks to a unique algorithm that selects the optimal time to play affirmations while the user is sleeping, but without waking him up. It receives data from Apple Watch sensors and thus uses "useless" sleep time to improve psychophysiological characteristics.

Ссылка App Store

Thus, while breathing is a natural process, it is sometimes helpful to control it. This will help to improve your well-being and give your thoughts a calm flow. Start with simple techniques and enjoy the results you achieve.

Hypnopedia Well-being Mindfullnes Positive thinking