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Deep Breathing As A Tool For Health
∞ Deep breathing is a powerful healing tool that you can easily learn and make use of, but often it is not given the attention that it deserves. This tool helps us utilize the healing benefits of the parasympathetic state. Many of us intellectually know about the importance of the parasympathetic system and we realize being in parasympathetic mode is important to heal, but we don't make use of simple breathing exercises that can create a parasympathetic state in our bodies . In our stressful society we all too often find ourselves in sympathetic mode and if we let our bodies remain in this mode it invites illness and decay. When we take the time to use a simple technique such as deep breathing to experience parasympathetic mode, this simple method gives us the means to create a more resiliant body.
The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Mode
Deep breathing is used as a simple tool to move our body from a sympathetic state of fight, flight or freeze to a parasympathetic state of rest and healing. In todays hectic world, it is all too easy to get into a sympathetic state where we are producing adrenalin and cortisol which pushes our body away from it's normal healing centered position and into more of an urgent situation. When this happens often enough the body does not have the time necessary to rest, digest and heal. We begin experiencing all sorts of ill health effects as a result. If the body experiences this sympathetic state a lot, it becomes trained to react this way at the drop of a hat. Learning to use deep breathing is one method to retrain the body to rest, digest and heal while saving the sympathetic state for when we really have an emergency situation.
When To Use Deep Breathing
I would suggest adding deep breathing as a daily tool, both as a scheduled activity to do before bed if at no other time and to also do it when under stress.
How To Breath Deeply
Even as little as 3 minutes makes a big difference. Any time feelings of worry, anxiousness or feeling pushed, rushed or stressed arise, stop for a brief three minutes and stand or sit still with feet flat on the ground or floor or laying down or any other posture that allows you to breathe deeply in and out. Take a deep, slow breath all the way into the lungs and down into the depths of the belly, and when there is no room to inhale any more, slowly release that breath fully. As it is being releasing it, feel the tension melting away with the breath. Feel both the physical tension leaving as well as any worries, any feelings or thoughts that are not beneficial. Do this for a few minutes and see how calming this simple breathing technique can be. By repeating this as a daily routine it retrains the body to stop going into sympathetic mode so easily and teaches it to be in parasympathetic mode (vagal mode) where we relax and heal.
Make sure you fully breathe out after breathing in during any breathing exercise. It is as important to fully breathe out as it is to fully breathe in.
To learn to breath slow and deep, I suggest you watch this Qi Gong youtube presentation.
This is the easiest method of breathing that can be used as a healing tool and what I suggest you begin with.
Other Types Of Breathing Techniques
There are other methods of breathing that are taught in yoga classes, Qi gong and by health professionals. A wonderful book called "Breath: The New Science Of A Lost Art" by James Nestor introduces a variety of these breathing techniques and explains why breathing through your nose is an absolute necessity. Mouth breathing leads to all manner of illness and he gives a thorough explanation of why this takes place. I highly recommend this excellent book.
Most practitioners of proper breathing feel the perfect breath is to breathe in for about 5.5 seconds and then exhale for 5.5 seconds and to condition ones self to do this until it becomes natural. Google has even created an application to help people to inhale and exhale at 5.5 seconds. This is a good general technique for normal use.
I have a list of other ideas that will also help retrain you to be in the relaxing and healing parasympathetic mode.
If you are a mouth breather, I suggest you watch this TEDx video. In fact it is a good video for anyone to watch who wants to breath better.
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