You’ve probably seen it in movies where the training sergeant tells the young recruit to ‘suck in that gut.’ This may be an attempt to create a sleek and slender military warrior, but as far as health is concerned, this is bad advice. It’s bad advice because it promotes shallow breathing.
Why is deep breathing better?
According to the Harvard Health Publications article, “Take a Deep Breath,” deep breathing “slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.” Deep breathing also allows oxygenated air to reach the small blood vessels at the bottom of your lungs. In turn, your lungs and breathing become more efficient in removing carbon dioxide from your body.
Deep breathing is sometimes called diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. It is frequently used by yoga and meditation practitioners. This may be the reason why people who frequently meditate experience lower stress levels and blood pressure.
When you practice deep breathing, your abdomen should expand outward. This allows your diaphragm to drop down and expand your lungs to their fullest volume. Frequent deep breathing exercises will strengthen your diaphragm muscle. A strong diaphragm muscle not only permits you to completely fill your lungs with good oxygenated air, but also helps to empty your lungs of carbon dioxide rich gas.
The article further explains how you can practice deep or diaphragmatic breathing with this exercise:
“Try taking a slow, deep breath. The air coming in through your nose should move downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.”
“Now practice diaphragmatic breathing for several minutes. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.”
You may find it easier to practice meditation by focusing on deep breathing exercises. With frequent practice, deep breathing will become normal. You then can enjoy lower stress levels and lower blood pressure levels for improved health.
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