Breathing techniques can be incorporated into daily routines to improve sleep, calm the mind and help heal the body. Whether you’re an athlete or an everyday person, the quality of your breathing is essential to your overall well-being.
Studies show that performing inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) for just five minutes a day significantly lowers blood pressure and boosts heart health. This is especially beneficial for people with high blood pressure, like 61-year-old Theresa Hernandez.
1. Improved Sleep
Incorporating breathing exercises into your sleep routine helps improve both the quality and duration of your slumber. Breathing exercises are effective for relaxing and calming your mind before you go to sleep, so you can relax and fall asleep quickly. They also reduce snoring and help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea.
One of the best breathing exercises to aid in a restful night is diaphragmatic or belly breathing. This type of breathing engages the diaphragm, which is a large muscle in the lower abdominal region that acts as a main respiratory and circulatory muscle. This is the type of breathing that is often used in yoga, meditation, and Chinese medicine.
Another technique is guided imagery, which combines a breathing exercise with calming visualizations. For example, you may envision a soothing memory such as a vacation or a calm scene like floating in the ocean. Breathe simple provides an easy-to-use app with a built-in breath trainer that syncs with your breathing and provides beautiful visualizations, making it easy to practice this technique.
2. Reduced Stress
Breathing exercises can be beneficial during stressful times, as they trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and help us relax. These breathing techniques can also decrease muscle tension and increase oxygen exchange.
Stress can be caused by a number of factors including work, relationships and daily life issues. It can often result in a “fight or flight” response, which increases the heart rate and shallow breaths. This can lead to negative feelings such as anxiety, irritability and even a lack of energy.
A breathing trainer can be used to slow down the breathing rate which has been proven to reduce blood pressure, regulate heart rate and boost mood. However, it’s important to talk to a health care professional before trying any new fitness technique. This could include your primary care physician, a respiratory specialist (if you have any lung conditions such as asthma) or a physical therapist (to help with muscle and posture).
3. Increased Energy
Breathing exercises have become increasingly popular for their ability to boost energy levels. Focused breathwork impacts optimal functioning of all systems, including delivering oxygen to the muscles that are needed during exercise and training.
This oxygen delivery improves post-workout recovery and decreases fatigue, allowing the body to return to a state of “rest and digest”. The diaphragm is a muscle that many people take for granted; they may only use it when exercising. Adding breathwork to your routine can strengthen this muscle, thereby enhancing lung capacity and endurance.
Breathing trainers work by applying resistance to inhalation and exhalation, similar to the way weight training at the gym strengthens the muscles over time. Most breathing trainers offer a range of load settings, with higher loads helping to build strength and power in the inspiratory muscles. Ideally, you should aim to train your inspiratory muscles for around 5-10 minutes per day.
4. Improved Memory
Whether you’re suffering from “Mom Brain”, battling information overload, poor sleep habits, stress, nutritional deficiencies or chronic gut issues – all of these can negatively impact your ability to focus and think clearly. Mindful breathing is a powerful tool that can help to reduce brain fog, cultivate clear thinking and improve memory.
Paced deep breathing practices – a core component of a number of meditation programs – have been shown to enhance a wide range of cognitive functions, including pain perception, visual and verbal performance. However, their effects on more complex processes such as memory formation and retention are less well understood.
Interestingly, research shows that people who breathe through their nose consolidate memories more effectively than those who breath through the mouth. So, a breathing trainer that helps you learn to breathe evenly through your nose can improve your memory, your ability to focus and even boost your physical performance. Several studies support this including this recent study which showed that a 30-minute session of deep, alternate-nostril breathing significantly enhanced the retention of a newly learned motor skill.