Meditation and Breathing Exercises

Meditation and Breathing Exercises: Definition, Benefits, and More

Overview

 

Meditation and yoga place great emphasis on the correct way of breathing and how it’s crucial to inhale using your nose and exhale from your mouth.

 

These practices are known to optimize the health of people, especially those dealing with anxiety and stress disorders. For instance, if you suffer from social anxiety disorder, equipping yourself with the right breathing techniques can immediately improve your symptoms.

 

 

Furthermore, doctors recommend patients with chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, to integrate yoga and meditation for a better outcome.

 

These practices are well-known and established for example slow breathing. Apparently this helps many parts linked to your heart, lungs and nervous system keeping them all in sync and well-balanced. More research needs to be conducted but please give it a go.

 

In this article, we will discuss the normal breathing in humans, the benefits of practicing meditation, and some breathing exercises you can utilize.

 


You must not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention

 

 

Physiological breathing

 

Breathing occurs due to the pressure gradient between the lungs and the atmosphere.

 

When the lungs’ pressure is below the pressure of the atmosphere, air will rush into the lungs to balance this difference. Once the pressure gradient shifts, the air will rush out of the lungs to restore equilibrium.

The diagram below depicts the pressure fluctuations during inspiration and expiration.

 

Generally speaking, there is a common route that air takes when entering or exiting the lungs. For instance, during inspiration, the air travels via the following route: the nostrils, the throat, air pipe, then the lungs.

 

Gas exchange happens at the level of the alveoli, and when the diaphragm (the primary muscle of breathing) contracts again, the air will rush out taking the same route of entry. In this case, the final exit is the mouth instead of the nose.

 

It is due to this fascinating physiology that gas exchange occurs in optimal conditions to allow the body to have a constant level of oxygen in the blood, which is crucial to keep different tissues alive and control our level of anxiety.

 

Unfortunately, many people unconsciously breathe in through their mouth, wreaking havoc on several organ systems, including the brain, cardiovascular system, and kidneys.

 

To counter this effect, doctors recommend practicing yoga breathing and meditation, which help optimize your breathing.

 

The next section will briefly cover the benefits of meditation.

 

 

The benefits of meditation

 

Reduces your stress levels

 

 

Since ancient times, meditation was strongly linked to its anxiolytic properties, which is the reason most people perform this activity.

 

In a classic 2014 meta-analysis, experts concluded that mindfulness can reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders if practiced regularly.

 

This is especially important for people with some form of anxiety disorder.

 

Improves sleep quality

 

Practicing mediation has been shown to drastically improve sleep quality in patients who suffer from insomnia.

 

The underlying mechanism behind this phenomenon is believed to be the release of stress-relieving hormones and sedative neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS).

 

For instance, serotonin (i.e., the happiness hormone) is released during the practice of meditation, yoga, or exercise, which is later transformed into the main sleep hormone (melatonin).

 

 

Helps you lose weight

 

It is well-documented that mindfulness practices reduce age-related cognitive deterioration, such as memory loss, attention deficit, and concentration.

 

In a systematic review, scientists analysed 12 studies that tackled this particular problem. They found that meditation improves all cognitive functions, especially in the elderly.

 

You can meditate anywhere and doesn’t necessarily need to be outdoors, you can comfortably practice it inside your home:)

 

 

 

 

The best breathing exercises

 

Belly breathing

 

  • Sit or lie down.
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other one just above your belly button.
  • Breathe in via your nose while focusing on how your stomach is rising. Your chest should remain relatively still.
  • Purse your lips and breathing out through your mouth.
  • Start by focusing your attention on the way you normally breathe.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Be conscious of the movements of your belly and chest.
  • Exhale.
  • Repeat this process multiple times while vocalizing words, such as rest or safe.
  • You can also picture yourself on a beach and synchronize your breathing with the waves.

 

Focus breathing

  • Start by focusing your attention on the way you normally breathe.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose.
  • Be conscious of the movements of your belly and chest.
  • Exhale.
  • Repeat this process multiple times while vocalizing words, such as rest or safe.
  • You can also picture yourself on a beach and synchronize your breathing with the waves.

 

Equal breathing

As the name implies, equal breathing focuses on dividing the breathing cycle into two equal phases –inhaling and exhaling–.

 

Here’s how you do it:

 

  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on the way you breathe.
  • Gradually count to 5 as you inhale through your nose.
  • Exhale for the same five-second count.
  • As you inhale and exhale, be mindful of the feelings of fullness and emptiness in your lungs.

More exhaling below

 

 

Prolonging the phase of exhaling is associated with the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the “rest and digest” phase.

 

As a result, your heart rate will slow down, and your breathing becomes more regular, reducing your stress and anxiety.

 

Follow these steps for the correct exhaling technique:

 

  • Take a normal inspiration and exhale gradually until you reach maximal expiration.
  • Spend more time during the expiration phase. For instance, inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 5 or 6.
  • Do this exercise for 6 minutes.

 

Yoga breathing

 

Breathing correctly is an essential part of all types of yoga; however, pranayama takes breathing to another level.

 

There are several exercises to improve your respiration and reduce stress in this type of yoga, including equal breathing, lion breathing, and abdominal exercises.

 

For beginners, you should start with equal breathing where you divide the respiratory phase into two equal periods during which you either inhale or exhale.

 

Lion breathing

This exercise focuses on forcing your exhale.

 

Here’s how you do it:

 

  • Sit down in a cross-legged position.
  • Put your hands on your knees while extending your arms.
  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • Exhale through your mouth while vocalizing the sound “ha”.
  • During each inspiration, open your mouth as wide as possible and stick your tongue out.
  • Rest your face when you inhale.
  • Repeat this exercise 7 times.

 

Always pay attention to your breathing. When you are doing simple tasks, out shopping or even socially being active, when you really understand that breathing at a steady pace will help you with situations better and help you feel lighter, it can change your life for the better.

 

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider

 

 

Takeaway message

 

Breathing the correct way is crucial to optimize your health and reduce the risk of debilitating conditions.

 

Leading busy lives, rushing about and always on the go can all take a toll on our bodies. Naturally, the more you perform this way and live life “on the fast lane,” all of the time, it will catch up with you. After all, we are human beings and not machines marching to orders or operating like a rat spinning around in a cogwheel.

 

It will impact your body or health and it can range to fatigue, pains and aches or even stress. This is just a sign to take a step back and take control of your lives in a way where it shouldn’ t have to impact your lives drastically.

You can try to seek help into your daily lives, slow down whenever possible but a practice that may change your life and can ease your hectic life is paying close attention to your very own breathing.

 

Hopefully, this article helped you understand the value of meditation and breathing exercises to reduce your stress and manage chronic conditions.

 

If you have any questions or concerns about breathing exercises, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to help you out:)

 

 

 

 

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