Breathing is an automatic process which we never pay much attention to. It powers the human body. Every single breath we take fills millions and billions of body cells with life. While inspiration provides oxygen to the blood, which is essential to carry out all metabolic processes in the body, harmful gases like carbon dioxide exit the body via expiration. If our airways aren’t restricted, we breathe more than 20,000 times a day. This process which is vital for life can be used to make our bodies healthier if done properly.
The positive effects of controlled breathing were well known even in the past. In fact, in several ancient traditions including meditation and yoga, intentional breathing is regarded as a fundamental element. Precise methods of inhaling and exhaling, along with the logical grounds behind controlled breathing, were commonly taught to their followers by Buddhist monks and Yogis. The reason for this is, they were well-aware of the bizarre healing powers and both physical and mental health benefits of controlled breathing.
The evidence and confirmations for the effects of controlled breathing presented by scientists nowadays were already taught by ancient religious practitioners, thousands of years ago. The ability of controlled breathing to counteract the adverse effects of stress in disorders such as hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, and aging, is a great example for the healing powers of it.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, controlled breathing triggers our relaxation response, thereby activating our parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, our heart rate and digestion slow down, helping us to feel calm. Breathing occurs automatically when the heart pumps blood and the brain is properly functioning, and it can be done both voluntarily and involuntarily. But, most of us give in to unintentional chest-breathing and shallow-breathing, without being mindful about proper breathing techniques. Instead, we should practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is ‘breathing with the belly.’ Controlled breathing is when we engage in this consciously.
This is all about being conscious about our breathing patterns. Many extraordinary health benefits such as increased energy, healthier organs, improved brain function, improved memory, can be gained by practicing controlled breathing. Most of these are gained by directly curbing the fight-or-flight (FoF) responses of the body, that gets activated when its under stress, and in emergency situations.
The thinking power and intelligence of humans gradually increased with evolution, with the development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain, which is responsible for actions like decision-making and resource management. The wonderful fact is that it’s possible to overrule many FoF responses using PFC, which is quite fascinating! And of course, this includes controlled breathing.
This is technically the opposite of fight-or-flight, introduced by Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School. It’s amazing that this can be achieved through intentional breathing. The relaxation response has the ability to bring out the opposite effects of fight-or-flight responses, which is having neither stress, fear, nor anxiety. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the autonomous nervous system. PNS is also known as the rest-and-digest mode.
Check out three methodologies of controlled breathing below, which will definitely help you to enhance both physical and mental well-being!
#1 Coherent Breathing
First, get into a position that you can comfortably breathe, such as lying down or sitting upright. Then place your hands on your belly, breathe in slowly and let your belly expand to the count of five. Then after a short pause, breathe out to the sixth count. Do this for 10-20 minutes a day.
#2 Core Breathing
Sit up straight on a chair or on the floor, and put your hands on your belly. Lean to the front when inhaling, and let your belly expand. Squeeze the breathe out as you exhale while curling forward. Exhale till you are out of breathe. Try to repeat this 10-20 times.
#3 Ha! Technique
Start by standing up straight with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, with your palms turned upwards. While keeping your palms up, inhale completely and draw your elbows backward. Then exhale quickly while thrusting your palms forward and turning them downward, saying the word “Ha!” and repeat 15-20 times.
Try these techniques and achieve inner peace!