At the core of every cell in our bodies lies the mitochondria, a beautifully complex organelle responsible for producing energy in the form of ATP. This crucial cellular process relies on a steady supply of oxygen, as its greatest nutrient to exchange for energy. It is through this process that we are able to carry out every and any biological process.. the beating of our heart, the division of cells for regeneration, DNA replication and revision, digestion, movement, and the list could go on and on. Breath is something that the majority of us do not pay close attention to or know how to take advantage of for our healing. Yet it is a free way to promote energy and vitality!
In addition to its critical role in energy production, oxygen also plays an important role in many other aspects of health and well-being. It is for regulating nitric oxide levels, enhancing blood circulation, and maintaining healthy brain function. When we breathe shallowly, with our chest, we are robbing our brain of oxygen and adequate blood flow needed for optimal cognitive function. In seasons of stress, we tend to breathe quite shallowly and rapidly, and may even trigger hyperventilation in severe cases. Furthermore, breathing can play a role in stimulating the vagus nerve, which controls heart rate and digestion, and may help regulate the stress response or HPA axis. Therefore, breathing can actually shift our emotional and mental state of being by changing our physiology and stress response, but our stress levels can also shift the way we breathe. Knowing this information can encourage us to use breathing techniques to manage seasons of stress, as well as promote mindfulness and awareness of the way in which we breathe unconsciously.
According to a study published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, breathing techniques have been shown to play a critical role in managing stress response and regulating the HPA axis. This research indicates that conscious control over our breath can help to buffer against the physical and mental effects of stressful situations, thereby improving overall well-being. By cultivating awareness and focusing on our breath, we can take a proactive approach to manage periods of stress and promoting overall health and resilience.
Although we may not always see the effects of our breathing in the short term, it is an incredibly powerful tool that should be used to support and enhance all aspects of our health. Whether by practicing specific breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing, there are many ways to harness the power of breath for greater healing. A great way to start implementing deep or soft belly breathing into your daily routine is by taking at least 20 deep breaths before bed to promote relaxation. Breathe in, expanding the belly with deep breaths through the diaphragm, and exhale for as long as you can with each breath. Another way to incorporate deep breathing is before meals. Before you dig in, allow an opportunity for your body to relax, inhale and expand the belly, and exhale slowly, pushing out all of the air. This will calm your nervous system before meals to promote adequate absorption and will support the blood flow required for digestive motility and gastric acid production for the breakdown of nutrients. How amazing that we can improve our digestion with breath alone!
When you start to tune into the way you breathe naturally while washing the dishes, writing emails, driving to work, etc., you may find that the way you breathe throughout the day is shallow or you may even be holding your breath! This is quite common, especially when we are used to operating in a state of stress or are always on the go. However, this is not ideal for our health and well-being. This is where we can harness the benefits of mindfulness, checking in with our body and breathing throughout the day. Pick an activity you do frequently, such as washing your hands or driving. Use this activity as a reminder to check in with your breath, and start making deep breathing a norm for you. It takes consistency and time to change this habit, but you will definitely notice a difference in your physical and mental state of being.
Given the central role that oxygen plays in so many aspects of our health and well-being, it is essential to prioritize regular, deep breathing in order to support optimal mitochondrial function, brain health, and overall energy levels. By taking the time to focus on our breath throughout the day, we can help to optimize both physical and mental well-being for years to come.
Put this information into action through hands-on mind-body sessions at TCLM. Breath and movement go hand in hand, which is why we offer sessions such as breathwork, Tai-Chi, and Qi Gong.
Contact TCLM to discuss group visit options that resonate with your needs!
Cite the center for mind body medicine: "https://www.cmbm.org/breathing-for-health/", "https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5689025/"
Liu, Peng, et al. “Construction of Extracellular Microenvironment to Improve Surface Endothelialization of Niti Alloy Substrate.” Materials Science & Engineering. C, Materials for Biological Applications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26117732.
DeGuire S, Gevirtz R, Hawkinson D, Dixon K. Breathing retraining: a three-year follow-up study of treatment for hyperventilation syndrome and associated functional cardiac symptoms. Biofeedback Self Regul 1996; 21(2):191- 198.
Fried R. The breath connection. New York: Plenum Press, 1990.