Breathwork, also known as conscious breathing or mindfulness, is the practice of intentionally controlling the length and depth of your inhales and exhales to change your emotional and physical condition. Whether working, sleeping, or exercising, our breathing fluctuates constantly. We may not be aware of it, but our breathing has a significant impact on our bodies and mind. Simple breathing exercises can improve metabolic health besides nutrition and exercise.
Respiratory muscles can influence respiratory functions by enhancing muscular strength and endurance. In addition, the diaphragm is an essential factor influencing respiration. There are various breathing techniques to improve the respiratory system’s muscle function. Furthermore, breathing exercises improve one’s inspiratory capacity. Many different types of breathing exercises are listed below.
Breathing Excercise and Metabolic Health: The Connection
Breathing exercises widely help in improving your digestion and metabolic health. Since breathing is automatic, we may not realise how powerful its impact is on our bodies and minds. Deep breathing elevates the supply of oxygen that helps in burning the extra fat deposited in the body. By performing suitable breathing exercises, we can control our emotions and gain a sense of calmness. Moreover, breathing exercises improve blood circulation. Mindful breathing helps our nervous system’s chemical makeup, including our hormones and metabolic processes.
Breathing exercises can also reduce stress. The leading stress hormone is cortisol. It significantly impacts how the body uses glucose, carbs, and other nutrients and regulates blood pressure and blood sugar. Psychological factors like stress affect our metabolic health severely as they raise the production of cortisol. Research suggests that increased cortisol levels negatively affect metabolic health. Deep breathing can reduce stress hormones and benefit metabolic health.
Through continuous monitoring, BIOS from HealthifyPRO 2.0 can detect the upheaval in blood glucose levels when one is metabolically unhealthy. Interestingly, talking to HealthifyMe expert nutritionist Parul Dube, one understands interesting linkages between dietary modifications, activity levels and breathing techniques. She says that once a nutritionist identifies the foods that cause a spike in the blood glucose levels of a person concerned, they suggest alternatives based on the ideal weight. The dedicated coaches also recommend lifestyle modifications to help their clients in their journeys.
Simple Breathing Exercises
The most extensively studied type of breathwork is diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing, often known as belly breathing, entails taking deep breaths from your belly. To lessen the frequency of breathing entails constricting the diaphragm, expanding the belly, and lengthening the inhale and exhalation. Buddhism, martial arts, yoga, and tai chi are just a few of the traditional eastern cultures and activities that have long acknowledged the advantages of diaphragmatic breathing. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that can promote physical and emotional well-being.
Numerous studies have connected slow breathing to improved cardiovascular health, decreased blood pressure, less stress response, and increased heart rate variability (HRV), a marker of cardiovascular health and adaptability.
A slow breathing rhythm, coherent breathing (also known as resonant breathing), takes about six breaths per minute. By slowing down our breathing, we may get our autonomic system, which controls things like digestion, heart rate, and other unconscious functions, to do the same. According to studies, this type of breathing may alter brain activity in a way that lessens tension and anxiety while also improving our overall well-being.
To Achieve Coherent Breathing
- Exhale slowly until your breath is gone when lying down or sitting comfortably with your feet on the floor.
- For a count of six, steadily inhale through your nose until you reach the top of your lung capacity.
- Exhale completely via your nose until your lungs are empty on a further count of six.
- Repeat as many times as necessary to achieve relaxation.
The most sophisticated breathwork technique on this list is the Buteyko technique by the Ukrainian physician Konstantin Buteyko. He believed that breathing solely through the nose was beneficial for human health and that most people were over-breathing.
To Follow the Buteyko Technique
- Start inhaling through your nose.
- Instead of taking deep breaths that fill your lungs to the brim, start to slow down your breathing and maintain it quiet and soft.
- Breathe slowly till you sense a minor air shortage.
- Maintain these short breaths rather than giving in to the impulse to breathe more deeply.
- Keep breathing in this manner for one minute, concentrating on the breath.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
The technique involves softly breathing in and out while gently closing one nostril at a time.
At Home, Try Inhaling Via Other Nostrils
- Exhale completely through the nose while seated comfortably.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb, then breathe in through your left.
- Release the right nostril at the peak of the inhale, then seal the left nostril with the left forefinger before exhaling via the right nostril.
- Exhale via the left nostril while blocking the right nostril as you inhale.
- Repeat this technique for 5 to 10 minutes until you feel more relaxed.
Bhramari or Honeybee Humming Breath
Bhramari is a very effective breathing technique for calming the mind and releasing pent-up resentment and wrath.
How to Practise Bhrarmari or Honeybee Humming Breath
- Sit upright on the ground with your legs crossed.
- Keep your thumbs on your respective ears, your other fingers on your closed eyes, and both of your index fingers on your forehead.
- Now take a calm, deep breath in through both nostrils. After that, keep your mouth closed while exhaling and make a bee-like humming noise while covering your ears with your thumbs.
An excellent breathing technique for reducing stress and anxiety is Sheetali Pranayama.
How to Proceed
- Sit cross-legged on the ground with your eyes closed and hands folded.
- Make your lips in a circle and curl the tip of your tongue inward to create a tube.
- Extend the tongue in the tube formation out of your mouth.
- Breathe deeply and gently through.
- Hold your breath and gently move your tongue inside.
- Close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nostrils.
Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing
Sama Vritti is a powerful breathing technique that improves sleep quality by soothing the mind.
How to Practice Equal Breathing or Sama Vritti
- Close your eyes and begin by lying down or sitting comfortably.
- Inhale for four counts through your nostrils followed by four exhalation counts through the same.
- Gradually, try increasing to 6 to 8 counts every breath.
- Your breath becomes slightly more naturally resistant as a result.
The HealthifyMe Note:
Breathing deeply, slowly, and deliberately can help our bodies function better. It can help balance elevated blood sugar levels and increase glucose production by the liver, which may jump under highly stressful circumstances. Conscious breathing also improves insulin efficiency, allowing cells to use glucose as fuel. Furthermore, it prevents the accumulation of glucose in the blood, which can affect blood sugar levels and, if left unchecked, develop into a long-term risk. A healthy metabolic system has improved oxygenation. The body absorbs nutrients more readily when there is higher oxygenation.
Benefits of Breathing Exercises
Deliberate and focused breathing has numerous positive effects on health:
- It affects how your brain functions; taking slow, deep breaths might help you feel more at ease.
- It may help you become more relaxed and balance your blood pressure.
- It may enhance immunological function, memory function, and metabolic rates.
- It may boost weight reduction and reduce body fat. Additionally, breathing exercises have been linked to decreased stress levels, decreased appetite, and decreased hunger in some studies, all of which may benefit weight loss.
- It ensures smooth bowel motions, tones the abdomen and reduces belly fat
- It soothes our body’s muscles.
Other Ways to Improve Metabolic Health
High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low high-density lipoprotein levels (good cholesterol), and a large waist circumference are the five factors that make up metabolic syndrome (excess belly fat). However, even if you have one of these symptoms, metabolic syndrome raises your chance of significant health issues. The metabolic syndrome, strongly associated with obesity and inactivity, affects up to one-third of the population. The onset of significant health consequences from metabolic syndrome can be delayed or prevented with aggressive lifestyle modifications and weight loss. Maintaining the ranges listed below will support good metabolic health.
- Blood pressure: below 120/80 mmHg
- Blood sugar below 100 mg/dL
- Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) above 50 mg/dL in women and 40 mg/dL in men
Sitting has been labelled as the new ‘smoking’ by health professionals. Sitting for extended periods or most of the day harms your metabolic health. So, it is best to include some physical activity in your daily schedule. It may improve your mood in addition to helping you burn calories and reduce weight.
To keep healthy metabolic health, getting adequate sleep is essential. Lack of sleep can alter the balance of hunger and satiety hormones, increasing the need for calories. Moreover, one of the elements of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and elevated blood glucose, can cause sleep deprivation. Another crucial thing to do for excellent metabolic health is to manage stress. Stress causes the body to undergo several metabolic changes, some of which can prevent you from losing weight. Additionally, some people find that stress makes them eat more. Maintaining a healthy diet and being physically active daily are two easy things that will set you on the correct path.
The HealthifyMe Note:
Our breathing patterns are entirely automatic. However, becoming aware of and incorporating breathing exercises into our daily routine has numerous benefits, including promoting a sense of calm, increasing focus, and performing at your best. Deep breathing exercises are the most subtle relaxation techniques. You may perform them whenever and where you wish.
Research shows that controlled breathing or breathing exercises can positively impact our nervous system and metabolic health. It reduces stress and even assists in controlling blood sugar levels. Although there are several ways and practices of breathing, several nutritionists and health experts recommend diaphragmatic breathing the most. In addition, ancient eastern cultures have long recognised the benefits of deep breathing. Breathing exercises reduce stress, blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease, and increase metabolism.