Would you buy a pill if we told you that it could cure sluggishness, anxiety and headaches? Would you be surprised if we told you the cure did not come in a pill at all… but in a simple activity that you are doing right now?
The most vital element we need to sustain life is so quickly overlooked in our busy lives. Our breath. While humans can go days without water and weeks without food, if we are deprived of oxygen for more than a few minutes, we begin to damage our bodies. In fact, studies have linked senility, migraines, and strokes to a lack of oxygen or oxygen flow in the body.
Did you know that one of the easiest ways to feel better instantly is to practice deep and vigorous breathing? For most of our day, we engage in short and shallow breaths, only taking in small amounts of air before we exhale. But oxygen purifies our bloodstream and helps keep our red blood cells abundant and strong.
If you have a headache or are feeling sluggish, try sitting up straight and taking in slow and deep breaths through your nose. Hold the breath in your body for a moment and slowly exhale through your mouth. If you do this for a minute or two, you may start to notice instant relief from your headache and increased energy.
When you are stressed, you are told to “relax and take a deep breath.” This serves two purposes. Many stressful situations in our every day lives originate in our mind (unless you happen to be a firefighter, police officer or lion tamer) and stress signals from our mind sends messages to our body. Our body then releases hormones that trigger fight or flight responses. Often, since the issue of stress still remains cerebral, it is hard to eliminate these stress hormones from our body (since we aren’t in fact fighting or fleeing at all, but likely trying to stay on top of meetings, emails and obligations).
When you pause to take a deep breath, you are accomplishing two things. 1) You are moving from your head and into your body. Removing yourself from the situation is the first step in reducing stress. 2) By focusing on increasing the depth and duration of each breath, you are regulating your nervous system by calming yourself down and bringing oxygen into your blood stream to help process the hormones flooding your body.
Yogis, monks and all manner of sages have discovered the benefits and importance of regular breathing exercises and any runner will tell you about the “runner’s high,” a feeling of exhilaration that comes with deep breathing over a long period of time. Our body even has built-in mechanisms for delivering more oxygen to our bodies when we most need it:
- Yawning delivers oxygen to our body when we are tired.
- If you see a child crying or sobbing, you are familiar with the jagged intakes of breath that often accompany a crying bout. These deep breaths between sobs help to calm the body and induce relaxation.
- When we are panicked, we may begin to hyperventilate. This is our body’s last-ditch effort to provide us with oxygen to calm us down when we are under extreme stress.
So the next time you feel tired, stressed, in pain or at all out of sorts – try focusing on your breath first and experience the benefits.
Sources: http://www.stress-relief-tools.com/benefits-of-breathing-exercises.html http://military-fitness.military.com/2010/09/the-importance-of-breathing.html http://perfectbreathing.com/blog/2010/11/deepak-chopra-overcoming-anxiety-and-panic-attacks