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How to Breathe Your Way to Inner Calm

Posted by on August 30, 2019 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Nina Hosmane | Tiny Buddha

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum

Today I’d like to discuss something that I’ve found to be very important: our breathing.

“What do you mean our breathing? Don’t we do that all the time? Why do I need to read a blog post about it?”

Yes, we do this involuntarily, but did you know that there are different ways we breathe? Improper breathing can affect how we feel, mentally and physically, and, in reverse, how we feel can lead to improper breathing (if, for example, we’re stressed).

Related Article: Breathing Techniques: A Guide to the Science and Methods

Imagine what’s going on in the following scenarios:

You’re being chased by a grizzly bear.

Chances are, you’re breathing rapidly, taking shallow breaths (drawing in minimal air to the lungs), expelling a lot of effort, and heavily expanding your chest. This is known as thoracic breathing or chest breathing.

Thoracic breathing switches on our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for that fight-or-flight response we get when we sense any kind of danger, stress, or threat.

Chest breathing doesn’t optimally use our lungs (via our diaphragm), and can even lead to hyperventilation.

This type of breathing isn’t necessarily bad since it gives us the ability to run from that grizzly bear and can help during vigorous exercise. But we often do this unnecessarily, and it makes us feel more anxious and stressed.

You just did something relaxing and feel very calm.

Chances are, you’re breathing slowly (drawing in optimal air to the lungs via the diaphragm), are expelling minimal effort, and are expanding your abdomen/belly as you take in air. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing.

This type of breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the opposite effect of the fight-or-flight response, inducing a feeling of calm and relaxation.

Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep/belly breathing, is beneficial to both of our minds and bodies. In fact, it has scientifically been shown to help those suffering from PTSDpaindepressionanxiety, and other debilitating conditions.

There’s a reason why it has been featured on the websites of NPRHarvardTIMENew York TimesNational Institutes of Health, and The Wall Street Journal.

As someone who tends to exhibit the fight-or-flight response at unnecessary and non-threatening times (a work in progress!), I can personally attest to how deep breathing reduces the adverse effects of tension, stress, and anxiety.

Back before I learned about deep belly breathing, I often went into fight-or-flight mode when I felt uncertain and worried about my relationships, finances, school, meeting deadlines, or my health, and it only made things worse.

I didn’t want to continually work my body and mind into an unnecessary frenzy over situations that didn’t warrant it.

Everything changed when I began my journey into the world of yoga.


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