The Benefits of Breathing
Posted 4/19/2016 by UHBlog
In our fast-paced world, the ability to relax, disconnect and let go is hard for many of us. But did you know that your inability to relax might be making you anxious and causing you to experience a number of health problems?
That's why deep breathing exercises coupled with awareness can be so beneficial, says yoga therapist and meditation instructor Dawn Miller, MA.
“There has been research on the benefits of conscious breathing,” Miller says. “People who were able to slow their breathing significantly reduced their blood pressure, for example, which is linked to cardiovascular health.
“Conscious breathing can also help you fall and stay asleep, calm emotions, manage symptoms of anxiety and depression and reduce pain,” she says.
According to Miller, conscious deep breathing helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which slows your heart rate and gives rise to calmness and balance. The PNS is associated with the relaxation response in the nervous system, shifting you away from the stressful experience of the “fight-or-flight” response.
Although there are multiple ways to practice deep breathing, Miller's preference is to pair breathing exercises with meditation and/or simple movements. Among the breathing techniques she employs with her clients are:
- Inhaling through your nose for four counts, followed by a six-count exhalation through the nose – “The important component is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, and the actual amount of time for each – four seconds for inhale and six seconds for exhale – is just a guideline.” she says. “Your breath might be longer or shorter overall, so adjust accordingly.”
- Adding slow movements, such as arm raises and side bends, to breathing exercises to help you feel your rib cage expand and relax as you breathe in and out
- Placing one palm on your upper chest and the other palm on the belly to consciously feel how your body moves during deep breathing
“I like to work on the breathing patterns,” she says. “It helps you realize what might be tight or restricted in your body. By breathing with attentiveness, you come to understand that you have some control over your respiratory musculature and in turn can influence what’s happening in your nervous system.”
To make deep breathing exercises a habit, Miller suggests:
- Linking them to another habit you already practice, such as when stopping at a red light. While there, take four or five deep breaths.
- Placing a post-it note somewhere as a reminder
- Setting an alarm on your phone
- Establishing a consistent time of day to do five minutes of deep breathing
If you would like help with deep breathing exercises, consider signing up for one of the UH Connor Integrative Health Network meditation classes or S.M.A.R.T. (Stress Management and Resilience Training) programs. These programs, as well as UH Connor Integrative Health Network’s private yoga sessions, are designed to teach stress resilience and breathing techniques. View the class listings or call 216-285-4070 for more information.
Dawn Miller, MA is a certified yoga therapist, registered Viniyoga yoga teacher, Stress Management & Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.™) instructor and meditation instructor at UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Miller or any other UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.