Conscious Breathing - Deepstash

Conscious Breathing

Every time we notice our breath or change our breathing pattern to achieve a specific outcome, we are practicing breathwork.

Today, breathwork is the new yoga. It can be found everywhere from therapy sessions to gym classes, but it’s far from new. You can find early indications of conscious breathing in Hindu scriptures dating back hundreds of years, for instance in the Bhagavadgita, composed sometime between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE.

The Tibetan teachings of Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche that form the basis of the Bon tradition, which considers the breath to be important, are even older, dating back 18,000 years.

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  • Nasal breathing slows the incoming airflow, which has a calming effect on the nervous system.
  • The air is traveling slower and stays longer in the alveoli, where gas exchange happens. This gives oxygen more time to diffuse in the bloodstream, which can result in 10-20 per cent greater oxygen uptake.
  • Your nose acts as a filter for pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
  • The air going into the lungs is conditioned to better suit the body – warmed up or cooled down, depending on the external environment.
  • By breathing through your nose, you expel up to 40 percent less water (meaning you’re less prone to dehydration).
  • It avoids the problems associated with long-term excessive mouth breathing, such as dental problems, inflammation of the upper airways, forward head posture and even changes in the shape of the jaw.

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  • It’s more relaxing and it makes the process of gas exchange more efficient. 
  • The oxidative stress caused by mental or physical exhaustion can be mitigated by diaphragmatic breathing. 
  • Diaphragmatic breathing helps to move the lymph (the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system), therefore moving pathogens through the lymph nodes where they can be treated with specific lymphocytes. 
  • Another benefit is the increased blood flow to the heart. And if you strengthen the diaphragm as a muscle (through regular diaphragmatic breathing), you’ll increase your physical endurance.

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Since your body is governed by rhythms – your nervous system picks up the steady flow of air as a cue for safety and adjusts other bodily processes accordingly – you can use this to your advantage.

One way is via a common practice in yoga, in which we breathe in and out to a count. The aim is to find a comfortable length of the breath and, once it becomes easy, the rhythm can be slowed down. 

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  • For a long time, most mainstream medical practitioners had no interest in breathwork, but that began to change in the 1950s. 
  • These days, athletes are also taking an interest in breathwork. In sports, it’s always an arms race. 
  • Athletes are turning to traditional yogic breath-control practices as a means for conditioning the body and strengthening the respiratory system – certain breathing exercises can improve how efficiently the body uses oxygen. Breathwork is especially pertinent to endurance sports.

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Breathing: Need To Know
  • Respiration influences many of the processes in our body that have a direct impact on our physical and mental health. 
  • Each day, we take around 20,000 breaths.
  • With every inhalation, our heart rate speeds up, and with every exhalation, it slows down. 
  • The nervous system is especially sensitive to changes in breathing rate. 
  • Through our breath, we can change our state from stress to relaxation, or from feeling dull to being energized. Longer-term, through being more attentive to the way we breathe, we can benefit our health and longevity. 

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For many people, the breath is something much more than just the purely physical movement of air. It is often described as the energy, life force, cosmic essence, the vital principle that permeates reality on all levels including inanimate objects. Different cultures refer to the same phenomenon but by different names, such as: prana, qi, ki, lung, ruach, spiritus, mana, rouh and pneuma.

In yoga, the breath is considered not only the path of spiritual development, but also as a simple way of staying in good health. In the yogic breathing pranayama, the practices are well described, each with its own purpose – including energizing, cleansing, or relaxing.

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Deep Breathing Practice

Deep breathing encourages full oxygen exchange, slows the heartbeat and lowers/stabilizes blood pressure. This is specifically so when we engage our abdomen in our breathing practice.

Steps for Deep Breathing Practice:

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  2. Take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath.
  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully.
  4. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

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When you breathe through your nose, you absorb more nitric oxide, which is one reason you can absorb 18 percent more oxygen than by mouth breathing.

“5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute. The results were profound, even when practiced for just five to ten minutes a day.”

  • Stop breathing through your mouth.
  • Breathe through your nose as much as you can — while you exercise, and especially while you sleep.
  • Apply the 5.5 rule by inhaling for 5.5-seconds followed by exhaling for 5.5-seconds.

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How it’s done:  Inhale for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Once you manage it, you can go up to a count of 6.

It calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress.

When it works best: Anytime, anyplace — but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed.

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