“To gain control of the body, learn to control your breath.”
Breathing and Stress
When our body senses that it is stressed, it goes in to ‘fight or flight’ mode. Stress hormones = survival hormones. The bad part about our bodies being in this mode is that it puts all other systems in the body on hold.
For example, if your body thinks it is about to face a life threatening situation, it is not concerned about hormonal balance, digestion, or sleep.
Many stressors in life today are putting our bodies in ‘survival mode’. The scary part is, our body cannot tell the difference between a life threatening situation and the stress you feel from traffic, or an argument with a spouse. In either situation it produces cortisol, and enters into fight or flight.
Simply put: Sex/Beauty Hormones = Not essential for survival. These are the hormones that keep us energized, happy, balanced, as well as promote clear and glowing skin, shiny hair and less PMS.
In a balanced body, the sex/beauty hormones like progesterone will be produced and happily go to work and perform their main functions. However, if your body is overly stressed, your sex and beauty hormones will instead convert to more cortisol to essentially “keep you alive”.
We live in a stressed out society hence the suffering from mood swings, anxiety, low libido, menstrual irregularity, and PMS more than ever before in history.
It is inevitable to avoid stress, however- you can control how your body perceives it.
Learning to breathe can control those cortisol levels and assure the body that it is not in a dangerous situation. This way, all of the ‘happy hormones’ and bodily functions will continue working as they should.
It sounds crazy right, breathing, the one thing we do 24/7 three hundred and sixty five days a year, learning how to control it. It should be second nature, but it’s not. It is a learned skill, one that can literally change your life.
The Power of Breathing
Deep breathing activates our Parasympathetic Nervous System, which helps clear our mind, burn fat, speed up our metabolism, and remove toxins from our body. In fact, 70% of all the toxins produced in our bodies are removed through breathing! (1)
The vagus nerve, located in our brain, is in charge of our parasympathetic nervous system — it decreases our heart rate and blood pressure by deactivating the human’s “fight or flight” mechanisms, including anxiety.
When we stimulate our vagus nerve through breathing, we can gain control over our raging heart rate and rising blood pressure. As they decrease, so does corisol, anxiety, and anger. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve is signaled.
To detoxify the body and balance hormones, practice deep breathing every day.
In those situations where you can just feel you blood boiling or anxiety rising, try this:
- Breathe in silently through your nose to the slow count of 4.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Exhale through your mouth to the count of 8, making a slight audible sound.
- Repeat the 4-7-8 cycle another three times, for a total of four breathing exercises.
Other breathing practices that can be done daily:
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs.
- After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.
Health Benefits of Breathing Exercises
- There are numerous clinical studies showing the health benefits of optimal breathing. One such study, which spanned a 30-year period, concluded that the most significant factor in your health and longevity is how well you breathe(2).
- Breathing exercises have a positive impact on your respiratory system, which can reduce mental and physical fatigue, as well as relieve symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
- Breathing improves the circulatory system; improving blood circulation and cell oxygenation throughout the body.
- Breathing improves the digestive system, by acting as a pump to massage internal organs.
- Breathing exercises improve the endocrine system. The action of your diaphragm helps push lymph throughout your body, which helps eliminate toxic waste and strengthen your immune system.
- Studies have shown that deep breathing relieves anxiety,depression, and even hormonal imbalances.