Try this! Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out through your nose repeat five more times. Feel different? Feel more relaxed? You have just activated your parasympathetic system, the part of your autonomic nervous system that relaxes you, you may remember from high school biology the system that is responsible for rest and digest.
Ready to tap into this response a little more? Put your hand on your stomach, and now inhale again. As you inhale you should feel your stomach expand, really let it go, no one is watching you. As you exhale your stomach should fall. Try five more breaths like this.
Does that feel off to you? You may be “reverse breathing” or paradoxical breathing. This happens when your diaphragm moves in the opposite direction than it should when you are inhaling and exhaling.
Try it again, INHALE belly expands (diaphragm doms down), EXHALE belly falls (diaphragm relaxes). Repeat 5-10 more times. Keep practicing to improve your breathing and this parasympathetic response.
3 benefits of breathing correctly
Reduce stress response
When we consciously slow down our breathing and focus on the sensations of breath, we put the brakes on our stress response. Breathing consciously is very effective in reducing acute stress. Studies like this one from Frontiers in Psychology have found people who have completed several breathwork training sessions have significantly lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Lower Blood Pressure
Breathing slower and deeper can lower blood pressure. Deep breathing helps to improve blood circulation and is beneficial to people with high blood pressure. In a 2001 study participants who practiced 10 min of breathwork daily were able to lower their blood pressure non-pharmacologically.
Ever have difficulty falling asleep? Try breathwork to regulate energy level and help you settle down for the night. In a 2018 study participants with insomnia showed how self-regulating breathing techniques were beneficial to helping participants fall asleep.
Whether your goal is to reduce stress, lower blood pressure or sleep better, we can all benefit from time spent focusing on our breath. You can feel these changes in as little as 10 breaths. If you need help incorporating how to breathe better and more effectively throughout your day and/or while you are working out, our instructors at Enhancewell Fitness can coach you on how to breathe more efficiently through a squat, a push-up or any movement.