Have you ever heard someone tell someone else when they are stressed out to “Take a Deep Breath?” When a mother is in labor, “Breathe, Breathe, And Push!” Or in Yoga class “BRRRREAATHE.” Well if you cant tell breathing is incredibly important for every second of our being. Our breath is what oxygenates our bodies and allows our nervous system, organs, and muscles to function properly. That’s a pretty cool job that our breath can do, but what else can it affect?
The function of a conscious deep breath activates our hypothalamus, which is a neural structure that governs the autonomic nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system is the part of our nervous system that we do not consciously direct i.e., breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. So when our hypothalamus is activated, it then sends the signal to our anterior pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is also known as the “master gland” and controls the endocrine glands of our body, i.e. thyroid, adrenal, reproductive Hormones, etc. Specifically, for this article, it affects the adrenal glands. The anterior pituitary gland inhibits the adrenal glands from producing stress-inducing hormones!! (Say that sentence twice.) In short, breathing tells our nervous system to stop producing stress. This is why we feel more relaxed during deep breaths. That’s crazy that something as simple as breathing, can affect how our whole entire body is functioning.
How do you know if you are breathing correctly? I suggest all of my patients practice diaphragmatic breathing. Not only is it a great stress reducing activity, but it also is wonderful for strengthening your core and pelvic floor. The best way to feel if you are correctly breathing is by laying flat on the floor. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand right above your belly button. Breathe in through the nose filling your belly up with air. Notice the hand on you belly is the only hand that should be moving. Exhale out through your nose, expelling out all the air.
The next step to check your breathing is by placing your hands on your hips allowing your fingertips to lie on the lower abdominal area. As you breathe in, your hands at the sides of your hips should be moving away from your spine and the lower abdominal area to be expanding. This is a full diaphragmatic breath. If you can master this try to match your breathing with an eight count in and an eight count out. Once acquiring this great skill apply it to your daily relaxation routine for 5 to 10 minutes per day.
Mindful diaphragmatic breathing can be added to any situation we are in whether we are driving, in labor, or trying to hit a PR in a work out. We can mindfully do mini self –care sessions throughout our day and make our bodies and our mind function better.