The Importance of Breathing

May 25 / Jess Sired


We all know that we need to breathe to survive, but not enough people understand how they can use different breathing techniques to thrive.

When you find yourself in a stressful, painful, or overwhelming situation you can help your brain to cope by employing some breathing techniques which can change the way you think and feel.

So how does it work?

Your autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion, is split into two parts. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, controls your fight-or-flight response. The other part, the parasympathetic nervous system, controls your rest and relax response (RightAsRain).

These two parts of your nervous system cannot be activated at the same time, which means if you work to activate one, the other will be suppressed. In other words, breathing techniques will trigger relaxation, which prevents you from experiencing the potential panic of a fight or flight response.

Breathing more deeply also allows for more carbon dioxide to enter your blood, which quiets down parts of the brain, such as the amygdala, a structure implicated in the anxiety response. More carbon dioxide also helps synchronize your heartbeat and breathing, balancing the brain/heart’s electric signalling. This process is called heart rate variability, and it is known to be important in determining our moment to moment experience in stressful situations.
So, essentially, your breathing can exert control over your body’s anxious or panicked responses on an electro-chemical level, allowing you to become calm within seconds.

Can I Have an Example?

Relaxing Breath
  • A great technique for helping you to relax. It requires you to position your tongue so that the tip is resting against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth.
  • Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then breathe out of 8 seconds.
  • For this technique the ratio is key, so if you have trouble holding for that long, try to count faster until you can work your way to slower breaths.

Remember

When carrying out any breathing technique, make sure that you are in a comfortable position in a relaxing space.

You can repeat them as many times as you feel you need to feel their benefits.

But, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to relax as this will have the opposite effect.