Proper breathing is essential for brain and emotional health. Learn how to do ‘horizontal’ breathing

Breathing is so universal and continuous that it can be easy to forget about — until we can’t do it anymore. Breath is actually symbolic of life itself. Recently, there has been much research concerning the different ways in which we breathe. Neuroscientists are piecing together how the rhythm of respiration influences everything from cognition to emotion.


Take a moment to notice your breath — take a deep breath in and exhale — if your shoulders went up and down when you took a breath, that is called “vertical breathing,” or shallow breathing, and actually is not the best way to breathe.

Since proper breathing is essential for brain and emotional health, read on to learn about optimal horizontal breathing.

What is breathwork?

Breathwork refers to any intentional breathing exercise or technique used to enhance physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. During breathwork, you intentionally change your breathing pattern to shift your energy. Different breathing patterns can help to calm you down, to energize you, to lift your mood and even to help you feel more grounded.

Physical benefits of breathwork

Breathwork helps to decrease high blood pressure, improve quality of life in people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reduce tension to help with headaches, help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reduce the number and severity of hot flashes, according to research.

Mental and spiritual benefits of breathwork

Breathwork helps individuals manage stress, calm nerves, reduce anxiety, deepen the relaxation response, promote creativity, soothe emotions associated with grief and trauma, improve alertness, focus and improve memory.

Breathwork has been used for centuries in spiritual practices and meditation traditions. Intentional breathing has the ability to help one attain mindfulness, expanded awareness, and a deeper connection with self, god and the universe.

Diaphragmatic breathing

There are many different ways to practice breathwork, one is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, deep breathing or horizontal breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing allows for a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which promotes relaxation, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and provides the various physical and mental health benefits mentioned above.

When practicing diaphragmatic breathing, the stomach, rather than the chest, moves with each breath. Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your chest. During deep breathing, your left hand over your belly should do the moving. The top hand should remain still.

Try diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable place, close your eyes.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, pulling the air deeply toward your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  • Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  • Exhale very slowly and steadily through your mouth for about 6 seconds. The mouth should be relaxed.
  • Repeat for 5 to 15 minutes.

Know your end goal. Identify why you have a desire to try breathwork. Is it to reduce stress? Increase energy? Get better sleep?

I found myself practicing deep breathing while writing this article with a goal to become more focused while I was writing — it worked! Having the end goal in mind will help you to follow-through and get the most out of breathwork.

Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: [email protected].

Source link