We all do it, we do it every day, and we’ve done it since the day we were born. Yep, let’s face it, we all breathe. But, have you given serious consideration to this vital function and all the important roles that your breath plays in your day to day life?
First of all, you know that you need to breathe to stay alive, but your breath does many other things for you including:
- Stress reduction– Deep, slow breathing with long exhales has been shown to reduce the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system, and help the rest and digest parasympathetic system. This can help reduce our stress, pain, and other chronic conditions associated with stress.
- Chronic disease management – It has been scientifically proven that deep breathing can positively affect the heart, brain, digestive system, and the immune system. According to Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,”
- Pain control – Scientific studies have found that participants who practice deep breathing in conjunction with pain medications during medical procedures experience less pain, discomfort, and emotional upset.
- Communication – Try to talk without breathing. You can’t do it! Have you ever noticed how hard it is to finish a sentence when you are short of breath? Any singer or public speaker can tell you that as your breath control improves your ability to communicate improves.
- Energy regulation – With training we can learn to use the breath to energize or relax us, or move our energy into better balance.
As a Physical Therapist, Yoga Therapist, and yoga instructor, I often guide individuals in bringing their attention to their breath, and in breathing techniques targeted at different outcomes. There is no one way of breathing that is “right” for everyone, at every moment. The first step is to become attuned and aware of your breathing – mindfulness of the breath. If you would like to explore the power of your breath further, there are many practitioners trained in this powerful tool, including yoga therapists and instructors, meditation instructors, respiratory and physical therapists, and voice coaches.
Katey Hawes, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc.., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist.