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Today in Health & Wellness
FITNESS AND FUEL

Breathing Exercises

"The Drug-free Solution to Better Health"
By: Kristine San Miguel, MDBreathing Exercises

Scientific reports show that 10 or fewer deeper, slower breaths per minute optimize health. "The main physiological benefit to slower breathing is that it increases oxygen saturation in cells," says Dr. Fred Muench, the developer of Breathpacer, an iPhone application that monitors breathing and displays optimal breathing rates. "This unleashes a cascade of positive effects, including optimum energy and cognitive abilities."

Here is how it works. “Once you go below 10 breaths a minute you start to engage the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body relax when it has been injured. Slow breathing activates the vagus nerve, the primary cranial nerve, which is associated with a recuperative state” says Muench. Recent studies have also demonstrated that slow breathing increases alpha waves in the brain, calming mid-range waves that foster a relaxed yet alert state of mind.

 Benefits of breathing exercises include:

  • Reduces cortisol levels against stress
  • Deactivates pain centers in the brain against pain
  •  Reinforces immune response against infection and cancer
  •  Protects the brain against age-related decline
  • Lowers arterial pressure against cardiovascular events

For the rest of us, breathing techniques are tools we can use to orchestrate positive changes within our bodies and minds. “If you teach people to regulate their internal software through breathing, everything else in the body starts to work optimally”, says Dr. Richard Brown, co-author of Healing Power of Breath.

Tackle day-to-day issues drug-free with easy to learn breathing techniques

Note: All exercises can be performed 3 to 5 times a day for optimal results. Consult your physician before performing the exercise.

Stress

Solution: Coherent breathing

How to do it: Inhale deeply. Exhale with a short burst (as if blowing out a candle). This helps activate your diaphragm, which most people don't use. Exhale with a long, slow finish to empty the lungs. Breathlessness comes from not expelling enough CO2. Inhale, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top, instead of taking short sips. Most use a third of their lung capacity. Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells. Exhale slowly and completely. Do exercise for five minutes

Insomnia

Solution: Alternate Nostril Breathing

How to do it: Inhale through your left nostril for a count of four, while holding your right nostril closed. Close both nostrils and hold your breath for the same period. Open your right nostril and exhale over four counts. Repeat in the reverse order. Continue for five minutes.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder

Solution: Pursed lip or diaphragmatic breathing

How to do it: Pursed lip breathing. Relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts. Feel your belly get larger as you breathe in. Pucker your lips, as if you were going to whistle or blow out a candle. Exhale slowly through your lips for 4 or more counts. Exhale normally. Do not force the air out. Do not hold your breath when you are doing pursed lip breathing. Repeat these steps until your breathing slows.

Diaphragmatic breathing. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips (see "Pursed Lip Breathing Technique").The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible. When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown on the first page. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair, as shown below.

Variation (sitting position): Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips (see "Pursed Lip Breathing Technique"). The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

Bronchial asthma

Solution: Buteyko breathing

How to do it: Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and allow a small silent breath out through your nose. Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs. Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe. At the first definite desire to breathe in, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles. Your tummy may jerk and the area around your neck may contract. Your inhalation at the end of the breath should be calm. Release your nose and breathe in through it.

Ready? Begin!

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