There are several methods where you can use your breath to bring about significant changes inside and outside your body.
To get a clearer idea of which method may suit you best, learn about the benefits this practice can offer you and which one you may need.
Benefits of Practicing Breathing Techniques
Work intensity, deadlines and other obligations, family burdens and more, make modern life a constant challenge to your physical, mental, and emotional balance.
Breathing techniques would work as a counterbalance to find your balance again and be able to face the challenges of each day. A controlled breathing rhythm allows you to calm anxiety, promote mental clarity and better stress management.
Induce Relaxation Quickly
A breathing technique leads to calmness within minutes, allowing tense muscles in the body to release and the mind to clear up.
Improve Sleep Quality
Research has indicated that slow breathing techniques provide a variety of positive effects on the mind and body, including improved sleep quality and duration. (1)
Breathing exercises can help produce what is known as a relaxation response (RR) that can induce sleep and help you stay asleep.
Improve Immune System Function
Breathing exercises have been shown to provide a relaxation response (RR) and some experiments have identified among participants improvements in the expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance (a kind of identifier of ageing); while the expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways was reduced.
May Improve Hypertension in Adults
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. When blood pressure is too high and left untreated, it can lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and vision loss, among others, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
According to a review of 13 studies published in 2021, voluntary deep diaphragmatic breathing produced a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, a reduction in heart rate, a relaxing effect, and a reduction in anxiety in hypertensive or prehypertensive individuals. It was concluded that voluntary diaphragmatic breathing at <10 or 6 breaths per minute for 10 min twice a day for 4 weeks was effective in producing positive results. (2)
Effects on the Endocrine System
Some hormones control breathing at peripheral chemoreceptors or have local effects on the lungs and airways. Oestrogen and progesterone appear to protect against sleep disordered breathing, while testosterone may predispose to sleep disordered breathing. Progesterone and thyroxine have long been known to stimulate breathing. More recently, it has been suggested that several hormones, such as corticotropin-releasing hormone and leptin, act as respiratory stimulants. (3)
According to a publication in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a review of experiments showed that breathing exercises increase autonomic, cerebral and psychological flexibility in a scenario of mutual interactions, i.e. facilitate links between parasympathetic activity related to emotional control and psychological well-being in healthy individuals.
These psychophysiological changes induced by breath control may well be related to a voluntary regulation of internal body states known as enteroception, which are not accessed under normal conditions.
May Promote Weight Loss
A study of 40 women found that doing Senobi increased the excretion of hormones in the urine, as well as sympathetic nervous activity (responsible for the body's response to fight or flight stimulus). (4)
Furthermore, obese participants who repeated the exercise regularly for a month experienced a significant reduction in body fat.
Another study of 38 people using the diaphragmatic breathing technique experienced a higher resting metabolic rate, which may induce greater weight loss (5).
Finally, a study conducted with 82 people for 8 weeks indicated that the practice of breathing exercises for 45 minutes, 3 times a week significantly reduced weight and body mass index compared to the control group. (6)
Note: in this last experiment, the Yoga Pranayama technique was used.
The Most Popular Breathing Techniques and How They are Performed.
Diaphragmatic breathing, also called abdominal breathing or deep breathing, is a type of breathing where we primarily use the action of the diaphragm.
- Lying on a bed or flat surface, place a pillow under your knees. Ensure that the head, neck, and spine are in a straight line.
- Place one hand on the upper chest area and one on the abdomen, place the little finger above the navel. This will allow you to control your movements.
- Inhale slowly through the nose, so that the hand on the abdomen feels the pressure of the abdomen as it rises. The hand on the chest should remain still. The inhalation should NOT be so deep that you hyperventilate.
- Pause for a short pause and hold your breath before moving on to exhale.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, so that you feel your abdominal muscles descend. Remember that the hand on the chest should remain as still as possible.
- Repeat this procedure 3 to 10 times, up to 3-4 times a day, if possible.
Dirgha pranayama is often referred to as three-part breathing. It consists of briefly interrupting inhalations and/or exhalations with pauses, which would help to raise awareness and expand lung capacity.
- Lie in a reclining position, either on your back or supported by cushions, blocks, blankets, or a combination of these.
- Inhale to one-third of lung capacity and pause for two to three seconds.
- Inhale another third, pause again and inhale until your lungs are full.
- Pause and repeat the pattern on the exhale, exhaling the breath in thirds.
You can also practice pausing only on the inhalation and releasing all the air on an exhalation, or vice versa: inhale deeply and exhale in thirds.
Img.: from www.cuerpomente.com magazine
It is called the breathing technique for weight loss because of the results obtained in the studies I mentioned above.
This breathing exercise, which combines breathing and muscle stretching, is part of the age-old Japanese medicinal tradition, and has been proposed by Dr Toshihiko Kawamura, professor at Niigata University (Japan) as an option for people who are unable or unwilling to do strenuous physical activity. Senobi breathing is performed while standing or sitting before each meal.
Step 1: Stand in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
Step 2: Extend arms upwards (fingers interlocked and palms facing the ceiling.
Step 3: Bring your head back and gaze towards your hands. Then inhale slowly for 5 seconds.
Step 4: Then exhale forcefully for 5-7 seconds, stretching all the muscles of the body. Take 3 full breaths while holding this posture, corresponding to 30 seconds.
Step 5: Rest for a few seconds and start again. Repeat this procedure for 2-10 minutes, depending on your ability.
Also known as box breathing, this is a very simple breathing method that follows a "square" pattern. Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and repeat this breathing pattern.
In 1957, Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko observed that unhealthy people have noticeable breathing during rest. They usually breathe through the mouth, using the upper part of the thorax, with a higher-than-normal respiratory rate and volume.
In contrast, healthy people have regular, effortless, and quiet breathing at rest. They breathe through the nose, driven by the diaphragm, with normal breathing rate and volume.
Over four decades, Dr Buteyko developed a programme designed to normalise respiratory volume. Through slow breaths and breath-holding after an exhalation, the goal is to bring less air into the lungs. With regular practice over a few weeks, breathing normalises, with subsequent improvement in several common ailments such as asthma, rhinitis, anxiety, panic attacks and sleep disorders.
- After a relaxed exhalation, hold your breath.
- Hold your nose with your index finger and thumb.
- Hold your breath for as long as possible, which is usually twice the length of the control pause.
- When you have reached the point of moderate discomfort, inhale.
- Breathe normally for at least 10 seconds.
- Repeat several times.
Wim Hof Method
Breathing exercises correspond to only one of the 3 aspects of the Wim Hof method. These breathing exercises are often accompanied by an exposure to cold (shower or bath with ice water) and a commitment to achieve the results promoted by the method.
In fact, it is a meditation where the breathing exercises are preparatory to shock experiences such as cold showers and to stay there requires controlled breathing as learnt during the breathing exercises. For this reason, it is advisable but not obligatory, to first perform the breathing exercises and then move on to the cold therapy.
- Lie down or assume a relaxed posture.
- Take 30 deep inhalations and exhalations (this may cause you to feel a bit dizzy and your head may spin, but that's fine), inhaling as much as you can, but not exhaling completely, without pausing between inhalation and exhalation.
- After 30 or 40 deep breaths, exhale and hold your breath for as long as you can while remaining calm (you will be surprised how long you can go without breathing).
- When you can't take any more, take a deep breath in and hold it for 15 seconds. Then exhale and repeat the whole cycle 3-10 times, according to your capacity.
As you can see there are breathing techniques that emphasise different aspects and/or personal needs. Choose the technique that best suits your needs and be encouraged to practice it!