Breath is a mysterious piece of our existence. It is automatic and is the most critical function of our survival. We can go without food for 3 weeks, water for 3 days, but without breathing, only 3 minutes.
While it is widely understood that we need to breathe; the alternative applications of this instinctive behavior are largely unknown, and as a result are unapplied as we engage in the different types of experiences that make up our lives.
This article demonstrates how some of our experiences can be enhanced by the practice of mindful deep breathing.
First, it is necessary to know the definition of mindful deep breathing: focused expansion of the lungs during inhalation, intended to create better distribution of air to all parts of the lungs.
- The Physical Benefits
Obviously we need to breathe in order to sustain healthy levels of oxygen in our bodies– without air, we die.
Our lungs are the starting point in the circulation of oxygen to all of our cells; with it, the cells can undergo respiration, which creates adenine triphosphate (ATP – aka Energy). The process is relatively simple; the more oxygen we can supply to our cells, the more energy that our cells can produce.
Research shows that the deepest area of the lungs has the densest clustering of alveoli, the part of our lungs where oxygen is loaded onto hemoglobin for transfer to our cells.
By practicing mindful deep breathing, you can increase your ability to get air to the deep parts of your lungs where most of your alveoli live.
More air = More oxygen = More cardiovascular functionality.
The increased cardiovascular functionality has connected benefits to exercise. As your body produces more energy per breath, it becomes more physically capable and your performance is naturally enhanced.
- The Emotional Benefits
Stress is an emotion that can naturally paralyze us. It clouds our vision and prevents clear decision making. Stress can take a toll on not only our ability to function normally, but it can also impact those we interact with – as stress affects our ability to display true character and personality.
Cortisol is the chemical hormone that creates stress. If not controlled, it can build up over time and produce the stressful experiences we hope to avoid, such as anxiety and depression.
So how does one go about reducing their levels of cortisol? The first step: Mindful Deep Breathing.
Science has proven that deep breathing naturally reduces the production of cortisol. Paired with a good diet and regular exercise – your cortisol levels can be reduced to become almost a non-factor in your life.
In addition, specific breathing patterns have been mapped to particular emotions; when you’re relaxed, your breath is deep, and when stressed your breath is shallow. By practicing mindful deep breathing in stressful situations, you can trick your body into believing it is in a relaxed state.
This ‘trick’ is supported by an interesting piece of scientific knowledge: deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for creating the sensation of relaxation and for putting you to sleep.
If you can learn to harness this physiological functionality – you can use your breath to actively control your emotions so they do not affect your decision making.
- The Spiritual Benefits
I think we can all agree, the universe is a pretty ambiguous thing. Looking out at the stars, we have no idea what else is out there.
One thing we do have an idea of: Our Existence.
No matter your belief about religion or how and why we are here, mindful deep breathing can enhance the connection you make to your spiritual Source.
Your Source is something you cannot see, yet you acknowledge that it is exists. Your Source is what gives you energy; your Source is what gives you Life. The Air we breathe is the earthly essence of your Source. You cannot see Air, yet you acknowledge that it exists.
Mindful deep breathing puts a spiritual purpose into the breaths that you take.
It is easy to incorporate the Mindful Deep Breathing practice into your daily routine. Start with 5 breaths, twice a day – do them slowly and make sure your stomach rises on the inhale.
It only takes a few minutes and you can even practice while multi-tasking. Do it while driving, while sitting at your desk, while watching TV; you only need to do one thing: make the decision to focus.