Now take a deep breath. Deep breathing expands the lungs and the diaphragm. Increases oxygenation to tissue. Invokes relaxation. Massages the lymphatic system. Conscious breathing can also be calming and energizing. It even helps depression and anxiety disorders. In fact, practiced correctly, deep breathing can improve your entire physical and psychological state.
Our overall health is affected with every breath. Each breath brings oxygen into the body and into cells that direct virtually every bodily function. Humans breathe automatically and the average, about 21,600 times a day. But most of us breathe in a shallow way, without exercising the true capacity of our lungs, our diaphragm or our abdominal muscles. When we’re stressed, angry, in pain or frightened, our breath tends to follow a quick, minimal pattern that actually exaggerates the stress or emotion. It’s no surprise that meditation, yoga and many forms of exercise focus on breathing. Deep and conscious breathing slows your heart rate, expands your lungs, relaxes your muscles, and signals to the body that the time of fight or flight reaction-triggered by the sympathetic nervous system–is over.
Just as the heart pumps blood through the circulatory system, delivering nutrients and oxygen to cells, deep breathing pumps lymph through the lymphatic system, allowing it to carry toxins away from the tissues. But unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump. It depends on deep breathing to be activated. Taking a few moments and a few deep, mindful breaths at periods throughout the day not only boosts your body’s natural functions, but helps to redirect your attention from stress or emotional issues. Simply put, deep breathing has the potential to retune our bodies. And our minds.