Despite the fact that when something surprises or strongly impresses us, we use the phrase “forgot how to breathe,” in fact, of course, we cannot forget how to breathe.
But they say that you can breathe right and wrong. And also – that certain breathing techniques help relieve anxiety, cope with stress, and even improve some health indicators. We figure out whether this is really so.
So can you breathe correctly or not?
Breathing involves the lungs, the diaphragm (a thin muscle that helps the lungs contract and expand), and the intercostal muscles.
When we need to inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, increasing the space in the chest. And when you need to exhale, on the contrary, it relaxes. This is the scheme by which all people, without exception, breathe.
Which breathing should be considered correct then? First of all, that which does not give cause for concern and occurs through the nose without difficulty.
Although breathing is an unconscious process, we can breathe correctly and healthily. For example, if we form the habit of breathing through our nose.
This method will allow the lungs to work more efficiently in transporting oxygen throughout the body, and will also facilitate the removal of carbon dioxide. In addition, breathing through the nose traps hazardous substances in the air.
Breathing through the nose really protects us from dirt, toxins, allergens and even some viruses, which is always a good thing. But basically, when they talk about the usefulness of breathing, they mean its depth and regularity.
What are the benefits of slow breathing?
It is known that the emotions that a person experiences during the day or throughout his life affect his body.
A trivial example: if you sit down to supper upset, you can face not only the fact that “a piece does not go down your throat”, but also with indigestion, for example. But this is only one side of the coin, because there is another.
When we are truly happy or just very pleased, our lips break into a smile and our eyes narrow. Scientists have proven that if you smile tightly when your mood is not very good, you can become a little happier, because the brain “counts” familiar facial expressions.
The story is similar with breathing. When we feel relaxed, safe in our own home, hugging a loved one, or stroking a cat purring by our side, our breathing naturally becomes slower and deeper.
Or, as it is also called, diaphragmatic. This is the work of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the accumulation of energy and strength during moments of rest.
Conversely, when we are nervous or angry, fearful or uncomfortable, breathing becomes more shallow and shorter – chest.
Here, the sympathetic nervous system is already acting, which stimulates the body to spend the accumulated energy.
That is why if, in stressful situations, a person deliberately begins to breathe slower and deeper, the brain perceives this as a “calm signal” – and calms all systems that are under its control.
Why is it so uncomfortable to breathe deeply?
Chest breathing is evolutionarily characteristic of women, because during pregnancy, belly breathing will cause difficulties for bearing a child. The abdominal type is more typical for men.
Mixed breathing is considered ideal, which allows you to use all parts of the respiratory system and saturates the body with oxygen as much as possible.
So why don’t we breathe properly then? Scientists think it has a lot to do with the culture we live in.
For example, with the need to suppress strong emotions (a girl should not scream loudly, and a boy should not cry) or a desire to meet certain beauty standards (and for this, constantly, or maybe already unconsciously, pull in or strain his stomach).
When should you practice slow breathing?
First of all, whenever you need to calm down. In 2017, scholars from India examined the fear of public speaking using the example of medical students.
Before their lectures, they spent about 15 minutes trying to artificially slow down their breathing, inhaling air through one nostril and exhaling through the other. As a result, it was found that, in comparison with the control group, during the performance they “stressed” much less.
And breathing practices can be one of the tools to fight insomnia. For example, in 2015, a team from the National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan came to this conclusion.
In the course of experiments, scientists found that after 20 minutes of exercises to slow down breathing immediately before bedtime, patients with insomnia fell asleep faster, woke less often at night and fell asleep faster when they did wake up.
A little bit of specifics: on average, it took them 10 minutes to fall asleep, which is three times less than usual.
Finally, breathing practices may be worth using for people with chronic anxiety. This is evidenced by several works, including an Italian study from 2015.
For two weeks, scientists conducted two-hour trainings, which included breathing exercises (“from the abdomen”, slowed down, alternately with two nostrils) and yoga asanas, with patients with anxiety or depressive disorders.
In the finale, those who participated in it improved their symptoms. And perhaps the most pleasant thing is that this effect persisted for six months when the practice was repeated only once a week.
Do these exercises have limitations?
In general, there are no restrictions on “use”, but there is one important point. While breathing techniques do reduce anxiety, it doesn’t go away completely.
That is, they can and should be used as one of the tools for dealing with stress or as a way to calm down in a critical situation.
But if we are talking about panic attacks, constant severe anxiety or any other problem with mental health, you cannot do without the help of a specialist.
5 breathing techniques to try
WITH CONCENTRATION. The point is simply to focus on your own breathing, to see how smooth and deep it is, to focus on the sensations as the air passes through your mouth and nose.
FULL BREAST. First you need to “inflate” the stomach, filling it with air as much as possible, and then draw air into the chest. As you exhale, it is important to first “deflate” just the stomach – and only then get rid of the air in the chest.
WITH PAUSE. Try to breathe as usual, but towards the end of the exhalation, take a short pause, mentally counting to three. Inhale in the classic way, and as you exhale, pause again.
DIFFERENT BUTTS. Research shows that breathing through your nose can be more soothing than breathing through your mouth. In this case, duplicate routine activities also help to relax.
WITH POSITIVE THOUGHTS. It is clear that negative emotions do not exist, therefore all emotions are important and necessary for us. But positive affirmations in the spirit of the movie “I’m the most charming and attractive” can also work. So try not just to breathe slowly, but as you inhale, say to yourself that you are inhaling calmness, and as you exhale, that you are exhaling stress.