The Surprising Power of Breathing

breatheYou don’t have to be a guru, a monk or even a devotee of Yoga to derive a great deal of benefit from breathing exercises — sometimes referred to as abdominal breathing.  Now, some of you might be thinking that such things belong to the realm of unicorns and fairy dust, but there’s growing scientific evidence to suggest that deep breathing exercises result in specific physiological changes that result in concrete health benefits — the changes include increased blood oxygen levels and decreased carbon dioxide levels.

healthIt turns out that if we practice breathing exercises during periods of negative emotions, such as; anxiety, stress, sadness, fear, and so forth, we may be able to limit or even eliminate the body’s negative physical responses to these emotions — responses that are increasingly linked to a wide range of health problems.  Even if we don’t consciously feel stressed, abdominal breathing exercises offer substantial benefits.  Frankly,  It takes so little time and effort to try breathing exercises, that even the most sceptical among us should test the practice for themselves.  There’s simply nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.

The bottom line is that brief, simple-to-do breathing exercises can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.  They can help you relax, be more focused and reduce the sensation of stress.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, breathing exercises are particularly helpful for me, if I perform them right before bedtime.  I find that I sleep more soundly and, for reasons I can’t really explain, I experience much more vivid and pleasant dreams.  I even seem to remember those dreams more readily the following day.  The great thing about breathing exercises is that you can easily and effortlessly do them a number of times throughout the day

For me, breathing exercises involve four simple steps:

1) Find a Comfortable Place Where You Won’t be Disturbed.   You can actually do breathing exercises anywhere but it’s nice to try to do it routinely in a nice quiet place.  Again, if you don’t have a such a place, you can do it anywhere.  It may help to close your eyes.

2) Breath More Deeply and Slowly Than Normal — Breath in through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, and then slowly release thought our mouth. Breath into your lower abdomen, filling it up before moving to the top of your lungs.  Take a good, gentle, full breath but don’t strain or try to take abnormally large breaths  Focus your mind on the flow of air and on the expansion and relaxation of your abdomen.  Some people like to breath to a count.  If you’d like to try this, check out the second video at the end of this blog post.

3) Clear Your Mind by Concentrating Solely on Your Breathing: If thoughts crop up, and they will from time to time, recognize that they’re occurring and then just let them go. Think of them as no more important than big white, puffy clouds floating by.

4) Feel the Relaxation Happening:  Be conscious of the sensation of relaxation as it begins to occur in your body.

That’s it!  While it’s great to do this for five minutes or so, even a minute or two can have substantial benefits.  You will almost surely feel more relaxed, less stressed, more positive, and more focused.  And, as I mentioned, if you do this before bedtime, you will very likely find that you sleep better too.  Oh, and don’t tell anyone but these breathing exercises are the beginnings of meditation.  So, once you experience the benefits of simple breathing exercises, you may just want to explore further.



Twelve East Ways to Make Your Life Better
Approaching the Practice of Yoga
Free Your Breath, Free Your Life

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