Your Voice: Breathing can make you or break you
Though often taken for granted, proper breathing reduces stress, improves focus, and helps you control your emotions.
Breathing is life, and the most basic function of our bodies, but most of us never learn to breathe correctly. Therefore, we are unable to maximize our body’s potential. This impacts focus, cell metabolism, and many other functions in our body. Breathing is taken for granted, for it requires no training. While proper breathing reduces stress, improves focus, and provides better control over emotions, most of us do not know where to start.
People tend to take rapid, shallow breaths when under stress or anxiety, multiplying the series of these shallow breaths in a vicious cycle. This increases blood pressure and heart rate, creating tension, which may lead to poor posture and other health issues. These include sleep issues and fatigue by the ineffective use of the respiratory muscles, leading to headaches as well as neck and back pain.
While opinions vary in the right and wrong ways, there are certain rules to breathe correctly, according to the American Lung Association. Breathing through our nose works on slowing our breathing to make it more efficient. It also filters toxins and allergens from the air on top of easing the nitric oxide to improve oxygen transport in the body. In addition, using the belly/diaphragm is considered the most efficient way. Because it pulls the lungs downward, it creates pressure in the chest, which fills the lungs with air. Therefore, maintaining such correct breathing practices along with a healthy lifestyle are key for mental and physical health.
Breathing has been used as a powerful tool to control the body and mind. It is at the core of ancient mindfulness practices from yoga to meditation. Although breathing can change in response to emotional changes such as sadness, fear, joy, and anxiety, the process can be reversed. Certain breathing techniques can create specific physical and mental states.
For instance, deep breathing slows down the heart rate, allowing more oxygen and signaling the brain to relax. It also balances the hormones, lowering cortisol while increasing endorphins in the body. Through breathing, people can create various states to enhance physical and mental performance.
There are dozens of breathing techniques and patterns to get us in the desired state. One technique is the “Physiological Sigh,” which was discovered in the 1930s. Generally, sighing is essential for lung function, and without it, our lungs would fail. It is what we all do involuntarily when we sleep or cry. This is a useful tool to quickly regain control from feelings of stress effectively in real-time.
Another technique is the “Box Breathing,” also called “4×4 breathing.” It is done by breathing while you count to four for four times; four counts of breathing in, four counts of holding the breath, four counts of exhaling, and four counts of holding after the exhale. It is commonly used among Navy SEALs in difficult situations to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus. These are two among many that I invite you to explore to achieve your desired state.
Correct breathing is beneficial for both physical and mental health. The way we breathe affects our whole body. Using the right breathing techniques can improve lung efficiency, enhance performance, and alleviate stress and anxiety. Deep breathing for as little as 10 minutes a day can have great health benefits and improve cognitive performance. By taking a few moments to practice breathing techniques daily, we can enhance our breathing habits for better health and performance.
Your Voice reflects the thoughts and opinions of the writer, and not necessarily those of the publication.