Deep Breathing is known by a few names: abdominal breathing, belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and some others. The basic concept is breathing fully, using the full capacity of the lungs and getting the maximum amount of oxygen available into the lungs at all times. What a wonderful concept! I doubt that anyone could intelligently argue against this good practice, but there may be more benefits from deep breathing than we realize.
One of the uses of the practice of deep breathing is to help solve stuttering and stammering. If you have ever been afflicted by this problem or if you know someone who has been, you can imagine the relief that would come from solving it. It stands to reason that if controlled and purposeful breathing can solve such a disability as this, it would be beneficial in any speaking scenario such as public speaking, important meetings, or even just conversations with friends.
Another use is to relieve tension. Remember how your grandmother used to tell you to take a deep breath when you were upset or angry? Well, now Grandma’s advice is fully backed by scientific evidence that this works to calm things down. I realize that you didn’t need scientific proof to know that Grandma gave good advice, but it’s still fun to hear that. When we are tense, our whole bodies tighten up and constrict in a way that does not promote health. Blood and oxygen do not flow as easily as they should, so the cells are not nourished properly. Relieving tension lets the systems of the body flow and operate as they should.
Breathing well, breathing deeply, relaxes the mind and body and is known to bring some relief to emotional problems. We all know that the stresses of life can show up in our health and in how our bodies operate. If you’ve looked at someone who is stressed or worried, you’ll be able to see it in their face, in their posture, and in their overall body language. All of that is what shows on the outside. The furrowed brow, the slumped shoulders, the drawn face are the outside manifestations of stress and upset. Reactions happen on the inside too, but they are hidden from our direct view. Anything that can relieve upset and stress will benefit health and all of life.
While it is certainly not a substitute for exercise, deep breathing helps to build muscle. The actions of tissue repair and muscle building require nutrients and one of those nutrients is oxygen. Breathing deeply supplies more oxygen to more cells so that tissues can heal and muscle can build. The action of breathing deeply exercises the lungs and gently massages the abdominal organs around the lungs and the diaphragm. This gentle and constant motion helps keep all these organs more alive and awake. The heart is also greatly benefited from each deep breath because its job of delivering oxygen to all parts of the body is made easier by the abundance of available oxygen.
The act of breathing deeply will help to improve digestion and nutrient assimilation. Every cell needs oxygen to operate well and the cells of the digestive system are no exception. Digestion is a big job with many different processes happening simultaneously. Eating well is only part of winning the game of health. Making sure the food is digested properly and helping the body get all the nutrients from food is just as important to good health.
The nervous system is also improved by deep breathing. The brain, the spinal cord and all the nerves need their proper amount of oxygen, too. Proper breathing makes oxygen more available to this vital communication system of the body and allows it to function as it should.
There are so many benefits from the simple act breathing deeply, it seems funny that more attention isn’t placed on this simple action. It helps improve the immune system, relieves pain, and elevates our mood. It improves the quality of our blood, increases stamina and boosts energy. On top of all that, deep breathing is one of the best ways to detoxify the whole body. It is said that a body releases 60 to 80 percent of its toxins through breathing alone. That in itself is a great reason to learn this simple procedure, practice it well and adopt it as a most healthful habit. Your life will be better for it.
Many years ago I read the ‘Science of Breath’ by Yogi Ramacharaka (a.k.a William Walker Atkinson) and practice the Complete Breath which is a combination of Low, Mid and High Breaths that are done in the order shown, in such a way that they form one uniform, continuous and complete breath. You can find an excellent summary of techniques and exercises of the Science of Breath here.