In today’s lifestyle we have lost the understanding of the pivotal role breathing has on our body. Breathing provides oxygen to produce energy and maintain normal metabolism.
Exhaling carbon dioxide helps in maintaining pH levels in the blood. Deep breathing activates the relaxation response and reduces blood pressure and heart beat. This helps in reduction of stress. Proper breathing has shown to boost the immune system by increasing oxygenation, and improving mental health.
Our body controls breathing through a complex interplay between the respiratory centre in the brain and the muscles. The respiratory centre is located in the medulla oblongata and pons regions of the brainstem. It receives input from sensory receptors in the body and regulates the rate and depth of breathing. The respiratory centre receives signals from chemoreceptors in the blood and the brain, which monitor the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH in the body. If the levels of these substances change, the respiratory centre adjusts the rate of breathing accordingly. The respiratory centre sends signals to the motor neurons that control the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, which regulate the volume of air in the lungs and the rate of breathing. The process of breathing is regulated by a feedback loop, where the rate and depth of breathing are adjusted based on the body’s need for oxygen and the levels of carbon dioxide and pH in the body.
There are various breathing patterns, each with a unique impact on the body. Some of the most common types include: Diaphragmatic breathing which involves breathing deeply into the diaphragm, expanding the abdomen, and filling the lungs with air. Another is controlled breathing which refers to techniques used to regulate the rate and depth of breathing, such as slow, deep breathing or breath-holding. Whereas mouth breathing refers to breathing through the mouth rather than the nose, and can impact the body’s ability to filter and humidify inhaled air. Shallow breathing involves taking shallow breaths that do not fully expand the lungs, and can be a sign of stress or anxiety. Rapid breathing is when the rate of breathing increases, can be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions, including panic attacks, asthma, and heart problems. It’s interesting to know Clavicular breathing is a type of shallow breathing that involves only the upper chest, and can occur as a result of stress or tension. The most famous Yogic breathing is type of breathing which involves various techniques used in yoga and meditation, including pranayama, which involves controlled breathing to promote physical and mental well-being.
Different activities and situations may require different breathing patterns. Diaphragmatic breathing involves using the diaphragm, a muscle at the bottom of the ribcage, to control the flow of air into the lungs. To practice diaphragmatic breathing, lie down on your back, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, and breathe deeply, focusing on moving your belly up and down as you inhale and exhale. Whereas slowing down the rate of breathing and taking deep breaths can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. To practice slow and deep breathing, inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, focusing on the sensation of your breath. On the other hand, breathing through the nose can help filter, warm, and moisten the air before it enters the lungs, which can improve lung function and reduce the risk of respiratory infections. Pursed-lip breathing involves exhaling through pursed lips, like you’re blowing out a candle. It can help improve lung function and reduce shortness of breath in individuals with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In general, the correct way to breathe is the one in which you feel comfortable and allows you to take deep breaths without strain. If you have a medical condition that affects your breathing, it is important to consult a doctor for specific guidance.
Advantages of proper breathing are many like Improved oxygenation, reduced stress and anxiety, increased energy levels, better posture, improved focus and concentration, reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, improved digestion, enhanced athletic performance, better sleep quality, boosted immune system, etc.
As we all know, yoga and deep breathing helps calm the nervous system. The breath aspect of yoga is called ‘pranayama’. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word which means "regulation of breath." It is a type of yogic breathing that involves controlled breathing exercises to promote physical and mental well-being.
In pranayama, the focus is on controlling the breath through specific techniques, such as slow and deep breathing, breath-holding, and alternate nostril breathing. These techniques are believed to help regulate the flow of prana, or life force energy, in the body, promoting physical, mental, and emotional balance.
Pranayama is often used in conjunction with yoga postures (asanas) and meditation, as a means of calming the mind and reducing stress. It is believed to have several benefits, including improved respiratory function, increased oxygenation of the body, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved overall well-being. Pranayama should only be practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor, as improper technique can lead to health issues.
We can also improve our breathing patterns by regularly exercising, maintaining moderate weight, avoiding cigarettes and tobacco consumption, avoiding eating large meals, staying hydrated, etc.
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