How to Improve Your Health Through Breath

Article By Ronnit Fallek | Featured on US News

It’s hard to believe that something as simple as taking a few deep breaths can transform your body and state of mind. Yet science shows it does. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain that has a calming effect. It can lower your heart rate and breathing rate, decrease your blood pressure, reduce muscle tension and help you feel less stressed overall – all essential for your health and well-being.

The best part is that breathing is something you do naturally every day and requires no additional supplies or equipment. With a few simple guidelines, your own breath can become a source of deep relaxation.

How Does it Work?

When someone is stressed, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing increase. These are normal reactions that pass once the stress is over.

If the stress continues, however, the body works in overdrive, leaving the person vulnerable to health problems and interfering with the ability to enjoy life. The symptoms connected to long-term stress include anxiety, depression, sleep problems, high cholesterol levels, stomach and intestinal problems, chronic pain and a lowered immune system.

Relaxation techniques are tools people can use to overcome stress reactions. These techniques help improve sleep, digestion, concentration and mood. Studies show that relaxation techniques can help people of all ages with a wide range of health conditions, including:

Our Experience

At Montefiore Health System’s Healing Arts Program, we use deep breathing and other relaxation techniques with patients, nurses and hospital staff daily. Patients report that the techniques help lower their pain and anxiety, while increasing their comfort and ease during their hospital stay. Nurses and staff describe benefits including feeling more peaceful, focused and energetic, sleeping better at night, feeling more in touch with their emotions and having less shoulder, back, head and neck tension.

A Breathing Exercise to Try

Here’s an easy way to get started in just five minutes. If possible, try it out right now.

  • To begin, sit in a chair in a comfortable position. Place your hands on your lap, with your back straight and your feet on the floor. You can also lie down on a couch or bed. Close your eyes if you wish.
  • Tune in to how you’re feeling. Are you relaxed or stressed? Is your mind calm or full of racing thoughts? Is your breath slow and full or fast and shallow? Is your body at ease or are your muscles tense?
  • Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of 1…2…3.
  • Now breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of 1…2…3…4.
  • Repeat this four times.
  • Feel the release in your body and mind as you breathe in, and feel all the tightness leave as you breathe out. Like an ocean wave, let your breath gently carry any thoughts or tension away.
  • When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room around you.

After doing this exercise, tune into yourself again. Do you notice any shift in how your mind and body feel?

Simple Guidelines for Regular Practice

Here are some guidelines to get started with a simple relaxation practice:

Keep it simple. We often think we have to jump in with full force to experience the benefits of something. In fact, what’s important is that you practice relaxation techniques regularly, even if for only a few minutes a day.

Try doing the breathing exercise above once a day for a week. Many people find that this small practice, when done regularly, makes a big difference in how they feel.

Enhance your focus. It can be challenging to relax when your mind is full. Try focusing on one of these while you breathe to deepen your concentration:

  • Feel the gentle rhythm of your breath itself.
  • Repeat a calming word, such as “calm” or “peace.” You can say the word softly out loud or repeat it in your mind.
  • Listen to your heart’s soothing beat as you breathe in and out.
  • Picture a mental image you find relaxing, such as ocean waves or a peaceful forest. Imagine the sounds, colors and scents that bring you serenity.

Create a routine. The key to success is making your relaxation practice an integrated part of your day. It should be easy and enjoyable for you so you keep it up over time.

Because your breath is the only thing you need for relaxing breathing, you can do this technique anytime and anywhere – even in the middle of a busy environment or when you don’t have time to take a full “relaxation break.”

Think about when and where you can practice the simple breathing exercise above once a day. In the morning as soon as you wake up? On the subway, bus or train? At your desk at work? At lunchtime in your parked car? At the end of the day when you are unwinding at home? Right before bed? Choose a plan, try it out and adjust the plan if you find there is a better way.

Find your technique. Along with relaxing breathing, there are other common techniques that use the breath to relax. These include diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and guided imagery. Try different techniques to find the ones you find most helpful. 

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Whether you enjoy the attention of one-on-one private training, or the excitement of a group fitness class, Balance Massage & Core Fitness Studio has the right training options to help you meet your fitness, physical therapy, and relaxation goals.

Balance Massage and Core Fitness Studio

233 SE Washington Street, Suite 103
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123

Phone: 503.352.9685