Understanding the benefits of controlled breathing begins with looking at a practice that takes place consistently every day of our lives. It keeps us alive, effortlessly. Thinking of this, take a moment to listen to your breath as it comes in and out.
Try this: take a deep breath, filling your lungs completely with air. Pause for a moment. Exhale slowly, counting down from 5 to 1. Repeat this four times. Believe it or not, you’ve just invited calm into your life.
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The practice you maybe just took part in is called simple breathing, and it’s gaining traction in the mindfulness community as a scientifically-backed way to calm your nervous system.
The practice, based on the ancient yogic technique called pranayama, has been used for centuries to promote concentration and improve vitality. And now, the science is starting to catch up to what sages and gurus have known for millennia.
Three recent studies sought to verify the claims that the simple practice of controlled breathing can have vast impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing. Some of the findings include that controlled breathing can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, depression, ADD, and PTSD. Some results even suggested improvements in the immune system.
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The funny thing is that while the research shows that controlled breathing is important in improving your mental and physical state, nobody's quite sure how. It appears, at least on a basic level, that when you consciously affect the way you breathe, the brain adjusts the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, slowing your heart rate and digestive processes, which in turn promotes feelings of calm.
In other words, controlled breathing helps to slow things down. And when things feel slower, you feel less stressed, and more at ease. When you practice controlled breathing, it could be that you’re basically tricking the brain into understanding that everything's a-ok. Use the simple practice laid out for you above as a tool to help you maintain a calm, level state of mind.