Have you tuned into your breath lately? For most of us, it’s not something we give much thought to. It happens in the background under the influence of your autonomic nervous system. If you’re breathing, you’re good, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. How you’re breathing matters a great deal to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Breathing is the one physical function which is both involuntary (happens by itself) and voluntary (we can control it).
We weren’t given a manual on how to breathe, and in our modern world, most of us breathe in a way that perpetuates the stress response and leads to imbalances in the mind and body. I want you to tune into your breath right now and observe how you’re breathing. Are you breathing slow or fast? Are you inhaling through your nose or mouth? Is your belly expanding or is your chest expanding on your inhale? Are you holding your breath?
Fast, shallow chest breathing through the mouth is very common, but it can be detrimental if it becomes the habitual pattern. It perpetuates stress and anxiety, activates the fight or flight response, and suppresses the immune system. I also talk to many people who find that they’re holding their breath without even realizing it! If this becomes habitual, it can lead to health challenges as well.
The breathing process, how you’re inhaling and exhaling is of great importance in maintaining health and is a great indicator of one’s physical and emotional state.
The good news is that you can consciously control the breath and begin to fix it. Breathwork practices involve consciously breathing in a certain pattern and style that influences the mind and body in certain ways.
Our focus today is on rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing. The most important aspect of breath control and using the breath to promote health and longevity is rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing. It’s benefits are numerous and goes back to the ancient teachings of yoga and pranayama.
The average person uses their chest muscles rather than the diaphragm to breathe which results in shallow, rapid, and irregular breathing. Rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing begins to balance the nervous system, support heart health, improve circulation, promote lymphatic drainage, reduce stress, calm the mind, and bring the different functions and rhythms of the body back into coherence and harmony.
How to Practice Rhythmic Diaphragmatic Breathing
“If the practice of rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing is done ten times a day for at least two months, with gradual and equal prolongation of the inhalation and exhalation, the body will experience a sense of deep relaxation and rest—more restful even than the deepest sleep. One will remain free from the stress and strain which is the source of many physical and psychosomatic illnesses. The nerves will be calm, and the voice and face will manifest this serenity. The voice will grow sweeter, and the harsh lines of the face will be replaced by a soft glow.” - Swami Rama, The Science of Breath
Curious if you're breathing correctly? Take my 11 question quiz to find out!