We are curious about nutrition and what the next super food might be to kick start or maintain our health. We want to know which supplements to take for a sharper brain, stronger muscles, and all the things that are able to prevent disease. Yet breathing, something we do all the time without thinking, is free and has a lot of capacity to heal our mental and physical and foster our spiritual selves. This healing can be achieved with deep breathing also knows as diaphragmatic breathing.
Deep, rhythmic breathing expands the diaphragm muscle, the cone-shaped muscle under your lungs, expanding the lung’s air pockets, invoking the relaxation response, and massaging the lymphatic system.
Deep breathing shifts the body out of sympathetic nervous system control and into parasympathetic mode, which is a healthier, calmer state. Working with the breath is a powerful tool that allows you to change the way the mind and nervous system operate. Breath training, or pranayama, is a foundation of yoga practice and is also an important part of inner healing. The breath holds the body and mind together and therefore has a major impact on both. Deep breathing techniques are effective in handling depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders.
Deep breathing helps to detoxify the body
Our bodies are designed to release 70 percent of toxins through breathing. Carbon dioxide is a natural toxic waste that comes from the body’s metabolic processes and it needs to be expelled from the body regularly and consistently. It gets transferred from the blood to our lungs and we expel it with our breath. However, when our lungs are compromised by shallow breathing, the other detoxification systems in the body (liver, digestive system, kidneys and skin) are forced take over and have to work harder to expel this waste. This overload can make the body weaker and could lead to illness.
Deep Breathing stimulates the lymphatic system
We have twice the amount of lymphatic fluid in our body as we do blood. Our circulatory system relies on our heart to pump it, while the lymphatic system relies on physical movement and breathing to get it moving. The lymph fluid is responsible for ridding the body of the debris the cells excrete as well as dead cells and other waste. As our breathing is what moves the lymph, breathing shallowly can lead to a sluggish lymphatic system that is not detoxifying properly. Because the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like our cardio vascular system, the lymphatic system relies on breathing and movement to expel all those toxins. Deep breathing will help get that lymph flowing properly. The expansion and contraction of the diaphragm actually stimulates your lymphatic system and massages your internal organs, helping the body rid itself of toxins, and leaving more room in the cells for an optimal exchange of oxygen.
Deep breathing relaxes
Chronic stress depletes the body of nutrients and destabilizes brain and endocrine chemistry. Deep breathing is the fastest way to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. Studies show that yogic breathing may affect the stress response system and calm the mind and body. Further studies show that trained deep breathing can relieve trauma symptoms.
Depression, insulin sensitivity, GI issues, insomnia, and adrenal fatigue are among some conditions related to an overworked sympathetic nervous system.
What counteracts this mechanism? The parasympathetic nervous system.
Breath is the fastest medium by which these systems can communicate, flicking the switch from high alert to low in a matter of seconds. When someone is frightened or stressed, they tend to hold their breath or take rapid, shallow breaths. With deep breathing, the heart rate decreases, the lungs expand and the muscles relax.
Many Eastern cultures have long recognized the importance of breathing to cultivate a positive relationship between the body and the mind, one that results in a more tranquil state of being and a more resilient physiology. Yoga, Qi Gong and t’ai chi are such healthy practices in large part because they combine deep breathing and movement to support a steady central nervous response.
Just as the body requires nutritious food, the mind requires a nurturing breath. A deep, smooth, and even breath—without noise, without jerks, and without pauses—nurtures the mind and enhances its ability to concentrate. Be mindful of your breathing and remember that each time you breathe deeply, you are detoxing, moving lymph and relaxing.