Book Dr. Akhu

Breathe Deep, Live Well: The Amazing Benefits of Deep Breathing for Your Health

breathing stress Jul 10, 2024
In today’s hustle and bustle, stress and anxiety have become part of our daily lives. But what if I told you that a simple, natural solution is right under your nose—literally? Deep breathing is a powerful tool that can transform your health and well-being. Let's dive into  Plus, I'll share a personal story from Dr. Akhu, who has witnessed the incredible benefits of this practice firsthand.

Let me take you on a personal journey before I share the science behind deep breathing and explain how it can help you feel better, think clearer, and live a healthier life. My story with deep breathing began during a particularly stressful time in my life, graduate school. As a student of psychology, I knew all about the importance of mental health, yet I found myself overwhelmed with stress. Desperate for relief, I turned to deep breathing.

I was initially skeptical—could something as simple as breathing make a real difference? I started with short sessions, just five minutes each morning and evening. I focused on inhaling deeply through my nose, letting my diaphragm expand, and then exhaling slowly through my mouth.

The transformation was incredible. Within a few weeks, I felt calmer and more centered. My sleep improved, and I found myself better able to handle the daily stresses of balancing graduate school, work, and family. Inspired by my own experience, I began recommending deep breathing exercises to my clients, and still do. Now, I even begin and end every speaking engagement with easy breathing techniques, my gift to the audience. The results are always amazing and appreciated.

Take John, for example. He’s a high-powered executive who came to me with severe anxiety and high blood pressure. I introduced him to deep breathing exercises. Over several months, his blood pressure stabilized, and his anxiety significantly decreased. John’s story, much like my own, shows just how powerful deep breathing can be.

How Deep Breathing Works
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, involves taking slow, deep breaths that fill your lungs and engage your diaphragm. Unlike shallow breathing, which only uses the upper chest, deep breathing allows your lungs to fully expand. This not only maximizes oxygen intake but also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps calm your body and mind (Jerath, Edry, Barnes, & Jerath, 2006).

Stress and Anxiety? Take a Deep Breath
We all know how it feels to be stressed out—racing thoughts, tight chest, and that overall sense of being overwhelmed. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your health, leading to issues like high blood pressure and mental health problems (McEwen, 2008). Deep breathing can be a game-changer here. When you breathe deeply, it reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and helps you feel more relaxed. A study found that people who practiced deep breathing had significantly lower cortisol levels and felt less stressed (Perciavalle et al., 2017). Brown and Gerbarg (2005) found that yogic breathing techniques can significantly improve overall mental health.

Heart Health Boost
Your heart loves deep breathing too! This simple practice can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, improving your cardiovascular health (Pramanik, Sharma, Mishra, Prajapati, & Singh, 2009). Research by Peng, Lin, and Lo (2004) showed that slow breathing techniques improve cardiovascular health by enhancing heart rate variability. When you breathe deeply, you improve oxygen exchange and circulation, which is great for your heart and overall health.

Sharper Mind, Better Focus
Ever find your mind wandering or struggling to concentrate? Deep breathing can help with that. By increasing oxygen supply to your brain, deep breathing can enhance your mental clarity and focus. A study on elderly individuals showed that deep breathing exercises improved their cognitive performance, including memory and attention (Yu & Sung, 2010).

Stronger Immune System
Believe it or not, deep breathing can even boost your immune system. Stress weakens your immune response, making you more susceptible to illness (Glaser & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2005). By reducing stress through deep breathing, you can help strengthen your immune defenses. Additionally, better oxygenation from deep breathing supports your body’s natural healing processes.

How to Incorporate Deep Breathing into Your Life
  1. Start Small: Try 5 minutes of deep breathing in the morning and evening. Gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable. 
  2. Create a Calm Space: Find a quiet, peaceful spot to practice deep breathing.
  3. Try Different Techniques: I prepared a freebie for you to introduce you to  four super easy breathing techniques. Get your copy here -  Breathing for Stress Reduction
  4. Make It Routine: Integrate deep breathing into your daily activities, like during your commute, before meals, or at bedtime.

Deep breathing is a simple, natural, and effective way to enhance your health and well-being. From reducing stress and anxiety to improving heart health and cognitive function, the benefits are extensive and well-supported by research. Start incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine and experience the transformative power of breath for yourself. It's free! It's powerful! and you can do it anywhere!

Brown, R. P., & Gerbarg, P. L. (2005). Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part II—clinical applications and guidelines. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(4), 711-717.

Glaser, R., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2005). Stress-induced immune dysfunction: implications for health. Nature Reviews Immunology, 5(3), 243-251.

Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses, 67(3), 566-571.

McEwen, B. S. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European Journal of Pharmacology, 583(2-3), 174-185.

Peng, C. K., Lin, L. Y., & Lo, M. T. (2004). Nonlinear analysis of physiological signals in health and disease. IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering, 7, 50-61.

Perciavalle, V., Blandini, M., Fecarotta, P., Buscemi, A., Di Corrado, D., Bertolo, L., ... & Coco, M. (2017). The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurological Sciences, 38(3), 451-458.

Pramanik, T., Sharma, H. O., Mishra, S., Prajapati, R., & Singh, S. (2009). Immediate effect of slow pace bhastrika pranayama on blood pressure and heart rate. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(3), 293-295.

Yu, J., & Sung, J. (2010). The effects of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in a healthy community sample: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 40(4), 470-480.