Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing
Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat four times.
Congratulations. You’ve just calmed your nervous system.
Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system.
For centuries yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to promote concentration and improve vitality.
Science provides evidence that the benefits of this ancient practice are real.
Studies have found that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder.
Breathing is massively practical. It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.
Controlled breathing can change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes such as heart rate and digestion and the body’s stress response.
Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system.
It slows heart rate and digestion and promotes feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
Many maladies, such as anxiety and depression, are aggravated or triggered by stress.
When you take slow, steady breaths, your brain gets the message that all is well and activates the parasympathetic response.
When you take shallow rapid breaths or hold your breath, the sympathetic response is activated.
If you breathe correctly, your mind will calm down.
Dr. Chris Streeter, at Boston University, recently completed a small study.
She measured the effect of daily yoga and breathing on people with diagnoses of major depressive disorder.
After 12 weeks of daily yoga and coherent breathing, the subjects’ depressive symptoms significantly decreased and their levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a brain chemical that has calming and anti-anxiety effects, had increased.
Controlled breathing may also affect the immune system.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina divided a group of 20 healthy adults into two groups.
One group was instructed to do two sets of 10-minute breathing exercises, while the other group was told to read
a text of their choice for 20 minutes.
The subjects’ saliva was tested at various intervals during the exercise.
The researchers found that the breathing exercise group’s saliva had significantly lower levels of three cytokines that are associated with inflammation and stress.
Learn SKY Yoga
Be Blessed by the Divine,
Krish Murali Eswar.