Why is breathing so important? Besides the obvious reason of keeping us alive, breathing also has a major role in regulating our nervous system. Through deep breathing, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the autonomic nervous system (system that controls involuntary functions, i.e. we do not control) in charge of the “rest and digest”. The other part of the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system; the “flight or fight”, is important during situations where the body needs to survive (like an animal chasing you and life or death situations) but detrimental if constantly activated due to its effect on the hormonal balance of the body.
Having a balance between the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system is important; however, it is very common to have sympathetic dominance because of all the stressors (illnesses, lifestyle, mental emotional stressors, etc.) we are constantly exposed to. Like I always say to patients, we cannot eliminate stressors from our lives but we can reduce them and help our bodies cope and adapt to them. Among the things that can be done to support the nervous system, breathing is the easiest and simplest one. Below are a few forms of breathing that everyone should practice at home daily:
- Abdominal breathing
- Sit or lay down. A comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your abdomen and the other one on your chest.
- Take a deep breath through your nose, your abdomen should push your hand out and the hand on the chest stays still.
- Breathe out through your mouth and feel the hand on your abdomen go in.
- Continue this breathing for a few minutes and repeat as often as you need daily.
- 4-7-8 Breathing
- In this exercise, you are also going to use abdominal breathing.
- You can do it either laying down or sitting.
- Put one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on your chest, just like the abdominal breathing.
- Take a deep slow breath into your abdomen, the hand on your abdomen should be pushed out as you breathe. Count to 4 as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath and count from 1 to 7.
- Breathe out completely through your mouth while you count from 1 to 8. Try to exhale all the air out of your lungs by the time you count to 8.
- Repeat until you feel calm
- Morning breathing
- Try this breathing exercise when you get up in the morning.
- Starting on a standing position, bend forward from the waist down with the knees slightly bent, letting your arms dangle close to the floor.
- As you inhale slowly through your nose, return to a standing position by rolling up slowly, lifting the head last.
- Hold your breath in the standing position for a few seconds.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth and return to the original position bending forward from the waist.
Supporting our nervous system is essential for optimal health. Doing it daily is the key. Practice the breathing exercises until they become effortless and you will be enjoying the benefits of doing them. For a free consultation to discuss your health concerns to see how we may be of help, call our office at 203-740-9300.
Dr. Yarilis Vazquez-Pacheco, ND
Naturopathic Doctor-SOPHIA Natural Health Center