Co-authored with Meera Watts
Wondering about yogic breathing benefits and how they could help you?
We all have concerns about our health.
Whether its blood pressure, stress, anxiety, depression or other factors that can damage our own health or our relationship with others.
But we don’t have to just settle for a life of prescriptions or compromised health. While some conditions obviously require medical intervention, there are a lot of things we can do to take charge of our bodies and our health.
So today, we’re exploring the world of yogic breathing, sometimes called Pranayamic breathing.
More than just breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, yogic breathing is a scientifically proven system to help us maintain and improve our overall health and well-being.
Specifically today, we’re answering all the top questions and reviewing the top yogic breathing benefits so you can decide if trying yogic breathing is right for you.
How do you do yogic breathing?
In short, yogic breathing isn’t just 1 thing. Pranayamic breathing consists of a few different breathing styles each of which has specific goals and benefits.
- Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath or Ocean Breath) – Designed to enhance relaxation, release stress and excess tension. Start by inhaling through the nose. Then breathe out through your mouth exhaling slowly, making a “HA” sound. With each breath, you should feel tension released and you can repeat as necessary.
- Kumbhaka Pranayama (Breath holds) – Helps improve oxygen to the blood. Inhale until you feel you cannot take in any more air. Then hold your breath for 3 seconds. Then after 3 seconds, breath in just a little more. Now hold as long as you can and release. With each successive round, increase the time you hold the breath for, up to 10 seconds. As this can impact blood pressure, always consult a doctor if high blood pressure is a concern.
- Kapalabhati Pranayama (Breath of Fire or Skull-Shining Breath) – Designed to improve energy, focus, and to activate the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Start by taking a deep breath in through the nose quickly and then exhaling by quickly through the mouth, pulling in your abs as you breathe in. Repeat up to 30 times.
While there are several other yogic breathing techniques, these can be the basis for starting your practice.
Are breathing exercises good for you?
In short, breath is life. That may sound simplistic, but breath is the cornerstone of life, health, and longevity.
Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Buddhist monk, noted author and philosopher, says “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
Deep breathing exercises are one of the best ways to reduce stress and tension in the body.
When we breathe deeply, it sends a message to our brains to relax. In turn, the brain passes this message on to the body. Many of the symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as a pounding heart rate, the inability to catch our breath, and high blood pressure, all improve as we breathe deeply.
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health also found that breathing exercises improved “cognitive performance and reduce negative subjective and physiological consequences of stress in healthy adults.”
What are the benefits of Pranayama?
Breath is also known as Prana or Pranayama, which is a Sanskrit word that means ‘life’.
Our breath is our life and it’s the first thing we do when we come into this world. Throughout our lives, we will take in around half a billion breaths. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are breathing. Our breath connects our mind and body and influences how we feel.
Yogic breathing is intentional and has many benefits that can improve your daily life. If you breathe with intention, you will have more energy and feel more relaxed. It can help you during times of stress and allow you to think more clearly.
Learning these breathing techniques in a yoga class is ideal because you have the space to be at peace. Then you can utilize them in your day to day life.
Does Pranayama help in weight loss?
In short, yes!
Yogic breathing, also called Pranayamic breathing, boosts levels of the hormone leptin, which is made by the fatty tissue in our body. This hormone signals the brain with regards to appetite, overall hunger and when it’s time to eat.
In a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, they found that “yoga may offer diverse psychological, physical, and social effects that may make it a useful tool for healthy, sustained weight loss”.
While they were studying yoga as a whole and not just the breath, they also noted: “the yoga practitioners reported less stress eating, reduced appetite, fewer cravings, and a shift toward healthier, more mindful eating.”
Finally, they concluded that one of the top yogic breathing benefits was “this weight loss experience was markedly different than past attempts, in that the weight loss was easier, and subjects felt more confident in their ability to maintain lasting weight loss.”
For even more tips on getting the body you always wanted, check out my Flat Belly After 40 tips!
So now, let’s review the . . .
9 Powerful Yogic Breathing Benefits You Probably Didn’t Know
The goal of Yoga is to reach complete peacefulness of body, mind and spirit, helping you to be active and in harmony with daily life. https://t.co/E7y41TCoyI &https://t.co/lr9DkKAfRD#Yoga #Peacefulness #Harmony #Active pic.twitter.com/SPBBg2NsRD
— Viviana Siddhi (@SiddhiViviana) December 28, 2018
1. The crucial way breath can help with anxiety and depression
There are certain breathing techniques taught in yoga that can help prevent anxiety.
It can also be helpful during a moment of anxiety. During an emergency (in our modern world, this can be being late for a meeting), the rate and pattern of our breathing changes. This shallow breathing is actually making you feel more stressed out.
When you breathe in slowly from your lower lungs, you help to calm yourself. Breathing in a shallow way only from the upper lungs can cause symptoms like dizziness, a lump in the throat, numbness in the hands or feet, and confusion.
If you’ve ever had a situation where it feels like your head is hot and you might pass out, this is a state of panic.
You can alleviate these symptoms just by breathing with intention. You will find that your body wants to sigh during times of stress or after the fact.
There’s a good reason for this and you can actually reverse the breathing patterns yourself when you change your breathing rate, the parasympathetic response kicks in. This is how the body calms itself, it is your relax response.
In regards to depression, it’s important to ease any tension as this can make you feel even more down. Doing something that stimulates the body like yoga and breathing techniques will help with your general well-being and mental ease.
Anxiety and depression can often hit us when we are struggling to Let Go of Past Hurts. While this can be one of the yogic breathing benefits, you owe it to yourself to dive in deeper on how to move forward in a healthy way.
2. Powerful ways breath helps manage your blood pressure
There are a few different ways to help control your blood pressure.
One of the easiest ways is to focus on your breathing. The way you breathe has a direct impact on your stress levels and blood pressure. Both your breathing and blood pressure are linked to the sympathetic nervous system. When you breathe in shallow, short breaths, you activate the fight/flight response.
This causes the release of stress hormones, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These can be harmful to the body when you have excess streaming through your blood.
When you control your breathing and make it deeper, you help to counteract this process by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. This will then lower the stress, and those stress hormones too. You’ll feel more relaxed and your blood pressure goes down.
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3. Amazing ways to regulate your body’s energy
When you breathe shallowly, you become exhausted quickly.
You don’t give the body the oxygen it needs. When you breathe deeply, you give the body all the oxygen it needs. It reaches your lungs and your brain. When athletes are in training, they also learn how to use their breath to maximize their exertion. We can use this in our own lives.
Deep breathing or diaphragm breathing can help boost your energy levels right away. If you’re feeling exhausted at work or need some additional energy for your own workout, try some breathing techniques.
4. Instant release of built-up muscle tension
As you relax your mind through breathing techniques, you also relax the muscles.
The mind is the engine and tells the body whether it can relax. When you breathe deeply into your belly, you send messages to your brain that it’s okay to be calm. You don’t have to be on alert.
This sends messages to your muscles that they can ‘stand down’. There is no need for tension because there’s no need to fight or run away.
5. How to train your body to naturally be relaxed
When you breathe deeply, you engage your stomach muscles and diaphragm as opposed to your upper chest and neck.
When you can start conditioning the respiratory muscles, you will naturally improve how efficient your oxygen exchange is. This allows you to take in more air because you’ll naturally start breathing into your lower lungs without thought.
It will take a lot of strain from your neck and upper chest muscles too. They are often tense because we are breathing from the chest area. When you breathe deeply, you are going to allow more oxygen to hit the body’s cells and tissues, which helps your health at a cellular level.
But breath is only one of the Ultimate Ways to Improve Your Life! Check out 10 others in one of the most shared Middle Class Dad posts on Facebook.
6. The natural way to ease stress from your daily life
Inflammation is a killer.
Inflammation, sometimes referred to as inflammaging, has long been associated with issues such as diabetes, stress, heart disease, anxiety, and a compromised immune system.
In addition, the hormone cortisol is one of the top indicators of chronic stress.
It varies throughout the day in response to our body’s natural rhythm. However, cortisol becomes less varied during the day with people who experience chronic stress. This form of chronic stress tells our body dangerous signals that put us into a fight-or-flight mode which impacts our sympathetic nervous system.
The good news is that a recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that “yoga and meditative practices . . . appear to positively impact BDNF (a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor which impacts memory, coordination, balance, and our senses) signaling, CAR (cortisol awakening response), and immunological markers as well as improve subjective well-being.”
They went on to also note that one of the yogic breathing benefits associated with adding a yoga practice to your routine includes “enhanced alertness and readiness for mind-body engagement, and increased anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines possibly indicating enhanced immunological readiness.”
7. A natural way to help with weight loss
As we went into detail above, one of the amazing yogic breathing benefits is the ability to help maintain or return to a healthy weight.
This is managed through a combination of stress relief as well as curbed appetite thanks to the hormone leptin which sends crucial signals to the brain about hunger and fullness.
8. Helps maintain and improve lung health
Researchers at Texas State University compiled over 50 different studies on yoga, meditation, and yogic breathing benefits.
They found that “greater improvements in pulmonary function are more likely to be seen in less-fit individuals and/or those that engage in longer periods of pranayama.”
And another study by the National Institutes of Health looked at how breathing impacted the lung health of swimmers noting “significant improvement” and that Yogic Breathing Practices can “enhance respiratory endurance”.
9. Add years to your life
In yet another recent study by the National Institutes of Health, they looked at the yogic breathing benefits and how an overall focus on that lifestyle can impact the diseases which most affect premature aging; depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and infertility.
They found that “Though we cannot change our biology or chronological age we can definitely reverse/slow down the pace at which we age by adopting YMLI.” (a Yoga and Meditation based lifestyle).
Lastly, they concluded that “Making Yoga and Meditation an integral part of our lifestyle may hold the key to delay aging or aging gracefully, prevent the onset of multifactorial complex lifestyle diseases, promote mental, physical, and reproductive health, and prolong youthful healthy life.”
Mindful meditation cannot only help give you a sense of calm and peace, but it can also help Improve Your Parenting Style.
The proven science that makes breathing techniques work
Let’s review exactly how pranayama or yogic breathing works so well.
It starts from the time you have a stressful thought. This causes your sympathetic nervous system to ignite and the body will then kick into fight/flight response. This is, of course, innate to our biology because we used to experience true dangers in our day-to-day life.
This fight-flight response would give us the burst of energy we needed so we could get away from danger.
This system is still in us despite the fact we have very little to run away from. Your breathing becomes shallow and quick. It comes from the chest which is not giving you enough oxygen. This can cause you to feel faint or short of breath.
This would be common symptoms of modern day anxiety.
It can cause you to feel frustrated and you don’t think properly. During this time, your body is producing hormones which cause your blood pressure to rise. This makes your whole body become tense and in a high state of alert.
When you breathe deeply, you can reverse all these symptoms right away.
You have the ability to create a sense of calm for yourself. Through breathing techniques such as breathing deeply and slowly, you give your body the chance to activate the calming response system.
This will reverse all the stress in your body.
The vagus nerve is stimulated which calms the heart rate, lowers your blood pressure to a stable level, and gives you calmness in the mind and body. The medical community is excited about the findings of breathing techniques and how effective they are.
Thus the yogic breathing benefits are many and significant for overall health, well-being, and longevity.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about yogic breathing benefits?
In this post, we took an in-depth look into the world of pranayama or yogic breathing.
We explored the proven benefits of adding yogic breathing to your daily routine. But we also explored some of the science behind the claims so you know this is a genuine system for helping restore, manage and maintain proper health.
Specifically, we looked at the 9 best yogic breathing benefits so you know exactly what you can expect by starting this ancient healing practice.
Have you tried yogic breathing? If so, what benefits have you seen?
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About the author of this post:
Meera Watts – a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, mom and the founder/owner of Siddhi Yoga International. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. Follow her at MeeraWatts.com.
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