Breathing is something we all take for granted, but we don’t all do it well.
The Framingham study
The 30-year Framingham study focused on being able to forecast a person’s longevity with forced exhalation volume as the primary marker for life span.
This study offers strong evidence that the most significant factor in wellness and healthy aging is how you breathe. These researchers claim they were able to predict how long a person was going to live by measuring forced exhalation breathing (flow rate) aka FEV1 and their blood pressure.
Breathing well reduces high blood pressure
We know that much of hypertension (high blood pressure) is controlled by the way we breathe. Breathing exercises are an excellent addition to other healthy lifestyle strategies to reduce high blood pressure.
When you are “stressed” you breathe shallowly
You’ve probably been too stressed out to notice how you breathe when you’re under stress, but what happens is that usually people start to breathe shallowly. One way to reduce your stress is to be aware of your breathing while under stress (as hard as that may sound) and at that point in time practice diaphragm breathing – breathing deep so that it feels like your stomach is full of air, instead of from your chest.
Breathing mindfully improves your body’s inherent self-regulating mechanisms. Breathing mindfully means that you consistently fill your lungs with life giving oxygen. Giving your body enough oxygen has a positive and direct impact on your nervous system, which in turn affects all your cells.
The web site breathing.com offers a list of other clinical studies into the health benefits of optimal breathing.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil
On his site he states, “Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
The key to this exercise is to remember the numbers 4, 7 and 8. It’s not important to focus on how much time you spend in each phase of the breathing activity, but rather that you get the ratio correct.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Sit up straight
- Place the tip of your tongue up against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process
- Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four
- Hold your breath to the count of seven
- Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible “whoosh” sound
- That completes one full breath. Repeat the cycle another three times, for a total of four breaths
You can do this exercise as frequently as you want throughout the day, but it’s recommended you don’t do more than four full breaths during the first month or so of practice. Later you may work your way up to eight full breath cycles at a time. The benefits of this simple practice are enormous and work as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system.
One way to remember to do this exercise daily is to do it before or after eating. Most of us eat three meals a day, so it makes remembering to do it easier. Also, combining the exercise with a “gratitude attitude” can have a powerful, beneficial influence on your health.
Reduce stress with the 4-7-8 breathing exercise
Another obvious use for the 4-7-8 breathing technique is to use it whenever you feel stressed or anxious. It’s a powerful way to help relax your system.
Best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything but a couple of minutes of your time! If you commit to this process of relaxation, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at how well it works in helping you relax in stressful situations.
- Dr. Weil’s website.
- Breathing Exercises and Self Healing, written by Roger Jahnke, O.M.D.,
- Breathing Exercises and Self Healing, written by Dr. Mercola
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