Did you know that our breathing can actually lower the amount of stress hormones circling around our bodies?
Yep, that’s right!!
Deep breathing (also known as Diaphragmatic breathing) can help us signal to our bodies that we are safe.
This prompts our bodies to deactivate the Sympathetic Nervous System and activate our Parasympathetic Nervous System.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System is designed to bring our bodies back to a balanced and relaxed state and is responsible for calming our bodies so we can rest, digest and repair.
You can read more about how stress impacts these bodily systems here.
When it comes to deep breathing, the best way to master it is through regular practice.
The Benefits of Deep Breathing
There are many health benefits of incorporating deep breathing into your day to day life.
Some scientifically proven benefits include:
- Help to get more oxygen to your brain which can help with focus and concentration (1)
- Reduce stress and anxiety symptoms by promoting relaxation, and in some cases PTSD symptoms (2) (3)
- Can relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (4)
- Improve sleep
- Can reduce harmful physiological damage from chronic stress on the body (5)
- Lowers your heart rate and blood pressure (6) (7)
To remind yourself to breathe deeply it can be handy to set times in your day to do it.
eg. During your morning meditation, at lunch on a walk, whilst driving in the car to work or even when sitting at your desk before a meeting.
When doing deep breathing for the first time it can feel a bit weird…
But it is SO GOOD for your body!
It’s also a great technique to heighten the quality of your meditation, which is why it’s used at the beginning of meditation and yoga.
Deep Breathing – The 4-7-8 Rule
The 4-7-8 rule breaks down deep breathing into three memorable and easy steps.
- You breathe in deeply for 4 seconds (Breathe deeply into your belly, not your chest)
- Then hold your breath for 7 seconds and
- Breathe out for 8 seconds
You then continue to repeat this process until you can start to notice you body relaxing and returning to state of balance.
Personally, I find it helpful to rest my hand against my diaphragm, which is located just slightly above your belly button, as shown below:
Resting your hand on your diaphragm can act as a reminder to breathe deeply into your stomach rather than your chest.
You can recognise when you’re doing this process wrong because you’ll see your shoulders rising with each breath. An easy way to check this is to watch yourself in the mirror.
Yes… I know sometimes this can feel a bit weird and awkward.
But it’s the best way to see what’s really going on.
Deep Breathing Tips for Newbies
Apparently, we take up to 17,000-30,000 breaths per day!
So, breathing is definitely not a new concept for most of you. Well, it shouldn’t be…. otherwise you may have another problem!
The trick is to become more mindful of your breathing and extend your breaths over a longer period of time.
Here are some additional tips that may help:
- Avoid breathing in too much, otherwise your lungs may literally explode by the time you’ve finished holding your breath.
- Ideally, when holding your breath, you should still feel comfortable and relaxed.
- If you start to feel light headed understand that this can be quite normal, but stop if needed or you feel like you may faint.
- The reason you could be feeling that way is because you are not breathing in enough oxygen compared to the amount of CO2 you are breathing out.
How to Use Deep Breathing During Meditation
Deep breathing is regularly used in meditation to help you relax and get yourself in the zone.
Alongside the many other benefits of meditation, breathing properly can really help to improve your focus, mood, stress tolerance and blood pressure.
Here are some basic steps you can follow to add deep breathing into your meditation practice (if you haven’t already).
- Find a quiet space
- Close your eyes
- Take a deep breath in for 4 counts (4 seconds)
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds (breathe into your stomach not your chest)
- Gradually, let go of the air and breathe out consistently for 8 seconds
- Repeat this process until you start to notice your body relaxing
- Return your breathing to a natural breathing rhythm as you begin your meditation practice
Master Deep Breathing Through Meditation
If you’d like to learn more about deep breathing and how to do it, we teach this and more in our Journey to Calm Meditation Course.
If you’re not ready to start the complete 14-Day meditation course, you can learn about the basics of meditation with our FREE / Lite version.
Get started with the Journey to Calm Lite Course, by entering your details below.