Discover the power of conscious deep breathing on your health

Breathing is something the body does without any conscious effort, but the power of conscious deep breathing is definitely no joke!

Bringing awareness to the breath can be an arbitrary thought at times. ‘How to breathe?’, is not something we normally ask ourselves. We know it’s a basic necessity of life to breathe and to oxygenate our blood through the heart and respiratory system, and we also know it’s a law of basic science that matter, i.e. oxygen, must take up space, i.e. our lungs. This is how we are able to breathe through the night while we sleep.

But did you know that conscious breathing can have an enormous benefit on our nervous system?

Our nervous system is a complex communication network that sends and receives messages to and from our brains and bodies. These messages include biochemical secretions like calcium and magnesium (needed for optimal skeletal and muscular function), neurotransmitters such as serotonin and epinephrine (our ‘feel good’ emotions like happy, excited, and safe), as well as hormones like cortisol (our stress, or ‘fight or flight’ response).

Conscious deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic or deep belly breathing, has a ton of research behind it to help manage these messages! This is an incredibly easy and direct way to help regulate and control our bodies’ nervous systems, balance our emotions and restore our physiologic responses.

The idea is to focus on bringing our breath to our lower abdomen and slowing down our inhalation and exhalation rate. This practice can be difficult at first, as you adjust to a different breathing pattern, you may notice your heart rate increasing during the first minute or two as your body begins to ease out of its sympathetic, or ‘fight or flight’ state. Be patient with yourself and just remind yourself to slow down, know your task list can wait, and your heart will thank you later.

How To Breathe

1) Close your eyes, sit comfortably and try not to slouch, we want the chest and heart space to be open to ease the respiration process.

2) Focus your intention and your breath just beneath your belly button, and feel the lower stomach rise and fall with every breath. The stomach should be physically inflating and deflating, more so than the chest. In fact, try to leave the chest out of it; a lot of us hold tension in our chest, pectoral muscles, and our upper traps and shoulders. Letting these muscles relax as we inhale to the naval can be very calming and beneficial to the muscles themselves.

3) Once you get the feeling, start to calm the mind and imagine your airways transporting your breath, oxygen and vital nutrients to your lower abdomen. You should be feeling the expansion in your lower ribs and low back.

4) Begin to slow your breaths; our goal is to inhale for 5-6 seconds, then exhale for 5-6 seconds. Try not to focus too hard on this, but slowly bring awareness to the amount of time it takes to breathe in, and breathe out. The goal is for balanced inhale to exhale ratios. Hitting the 4 second mark is okay as you begin this process!

5) Try to do this for at least ten minutes. If you can only do five in the beginning, that’s okay! This is a learning process. Practicing multiple times per day, can have a huge impact on your nervous system health, your heart, your lungs, and your peace of mind. Eventually, we want to breathe like this naturally! Studies show the average person takes 12-20 breaths per minute (breath = inhale + exhale). We want to hit 6 breaths per minute at an ideal state of balance.

Why does conscious deep breathing work?

The autonomic nervous system, as I said before, is a complex communication center and it divides into two basic settings that we call sympathetic, which is our ‘fight or flight’ mode, and the parasympathetic, our ‘rest and digest’ mode.

The ‘fight or flight’ or mode happens when our bodies believe they are in danger, causing our heart rate to increase, our blood pressure to spike, and our blood sugar levels to increase in order to protect us from harm, leading to more oxidative and emotional stress. In today’s busy life, many of us operate in a mild form of this every day!

Most of us don’t ‘reset’ until we are in a deep and restful state of sleep, stimulating our other setting, the parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’. This is where our body is at optimal performance with decreased blood pressure, regulated blood sugar levels, utilizing and circulating nutrients, promoting digestion and oxygenation, and reducing and eliminating waste and toxins while controlling our breath cycles. Both of these settings happen by automatic responses through signaling nerve tracts.

Luckily, the longest nerve in our body belongs to our parasympathetic system! AND, it innervates and extends into the abdomen. By breathing deep into our bellies, we are stimulating this nerve, known as the Vagus Nerve, or Cranial Nerve X. Vagal nerve stimulation is easy as counting to 6!

Try to tap into this state of breath and state of being as often as you can, especially during stressful times like losing your keys, being stuck in traffic, and running late for work. Conscious deep breathing… It’s no joke!

Don’t forget that you can read more of Britlynn’s great articles, such as how to choose the right feminine hygiene products  – and you can also book a free introductory video session with her!

Britlynn Ward Nature Remedies consultant Britlynn Ward Wellness Consultant & Herbalist Hi I am Britlynn Ward and as a Master Herbalist and a Certified Wellness Consultant in Holistic Health, I can help you create a personalized plan to help you feel your best in body, mind, and spirit.