Deep breathing has incredible benefits that most of us do not appreciate. It helps calm your mind, warm your body, increase your lung capacity, and even burn more calories!
When you are focused on your breath, you open up channels of energy to stay present and more relaxed, not only during the practice, but also throughout the rest of your day when you are stuck in traffic, anxious in the dentist chair, or engaged in a difficult conversation.
Most of the time we don’t think about our breath since it is automatic. But when you channel your energy to slow down, deepen, and add more rhythm to your breathing, the conscious mind calms down, and the subconscious mind becomes more alert with new insights, ideas, and perspectives.
The benefits of deep breathing are many including:
- Increases your energy level: A few rounds of deep breathing will provide a quick pick-me-up if you are feeling flat, tired, or stressed. You’ll gain a dose of extra energy by supplying extra oxygen to your body.
- Improves brain function: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and increases the blood flow to the brain for improved overall performance.
- Cleanses your body: Deep breathing removes stale air and impurities from your lungs and other areas of your body since 70 percent of your body’s waste products are eliminated via your lungs. During poor breathing, less oxygen is available to your cells, which slows down the flow of blood carrying waste from the kidneys and lungs.
- Calms an agitated mind: Even a few minutes of focused deep breathing can calm a fearful, worried, or “over-thinking” mind. The ancient yogis believed that if you can regulate your breath, then you can control your mind.
- Activates the left and right sides of your brain: Alternate nostril breathing melts away imbalances between the left and right hemispheres of your brain. It calms your thinking by optimizing the analytical left brain and the creative right brain by focusing your breath on one nostril at a time.
- Relieves depression and anxiety: I witnessed great results with deep breathing exercises at an Intensive Outpatient Mental Health Program I taught at in Denver, Colorado. In a 2005 review and analysis of several studies, Richard Brown, MD, and Patricia Gerbarg, MD, reported that yogic deep-breathing techniques were extremely effective in handling depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.
- Improves sleep: A restless mind cannot relax. By relieving anxiety and calming both the mind and the nervous system, deep breathing promotes rest, relaxation, and sleep.
- Facilitates weight loss: Deep breathing delivers many of the same benefits as exercise, including facilitating weight loss. One basic measure of fitness is cardiovascular capacity, the amount of oxygen our heart and lungs can deliver to our cells. Deep breathing improves this capacity, thereby increasing the body’s efficiency and ability to burn more calories.
- Reduces pain: Deep breathing is used a lot in the emergency room, as well as in the labor and delivery area of hospitals for pain management. Deep breathing not only reduces the anxiety we have with pain, but also releases endorphins, which is your body’s natural painkiller.
- Helps you stay in the moment: When you focus on your breath, the inhalation and the exhalation, even if you don’t change anything, you are focusing on the present moment. Focusing on your breath gives the wandering busy mind something to do, right here, right now.