by Karena Virginia - Internationally renowned yogi and author
Too tired? Scattered thinking? Slow digestion? Worried about your next presentation? One of the greatest gifts in life is the power and efficacy of deep diaphragmatic breathing. It is free, available always, easy to travel with, yours only and it can change your life. I know this to be true because I have practiced deep breathing and taught deep breathing to others for over 25 years. It works. And every single person who reads this can benefit from it.
When was the last time you focused on the rhythm and quality of your breathing? Take a deep breath into the lowest part of your belly. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Deep breathing is one of the easiest practices you can do daily to help with focus, rest, blood pressure, nervous system regulation, detoxification, immunity, metabolism, and brain health.
There is a direct link between deep breathing, nervous system regulation, relaxation, focus, and brain function. Long and deep breathing influences our well-being. You have the power to shift how your body and mind operate simply by activating your breathing.
Fight or flight? Shut down or focus? Rest or run on cortisol? Digest or store extra fat? Sleep or overthink? Push or let go? Send the angry email or pause and reflect first? React or respond? All of these actions can be altered by taking a brief minute to focus on the inhale and the exhale.
The key is to command the breath all the way down to the base of the spine. When we breathe diaphragmatically, the lower belly moves with each breath. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs, yet we feel the breath moving lower than the stomach when we practice deep breathing. The lowest part of the belly expands while inhaling and it contracts while exhaling. We are pulling the diaphragm down with each inhale, and the easiest way to do this is to imagine a balloon below our stomach that expands when we breathe in. The balloon then deflates as we exhale. You will feel a stretching and expanding sensation below your stomach as you inhale, and then a release and squeeze below your stomach as you exhale. The shoulders and lungs simply follow along. It takes some getting used to, but after a while, it creates a new sensation of ease, flow, and focus.
Science has proven that deep belly breath, also known as pranayama in the yoga world, balances brain activity by stimulating the vagus nerve, the master of the nervous system. The vagus nerve runs from the lower belly up to the brain, and it is responsible for the fight-or-flight response of the nervous system. When we utilize deep breathing, our brain releases the beautiful neurotransmitter acetylcholine which activates the parasympathetic nervous system which I like to refer to as the parachute of the nervous system. It brings deep relaxation and focus.
Next time you feel a lack of focus- practice deep breathing. Next time you feel exhausted- practice deep belly breathing. Next time you can’t sleep- give deep breathing a go. Breathe in. Hold. Exhale. Change your life in a minute or less. I hope these words add a gift to your life. Deep breathing is the best Power Fix for regulating your nervous system, and you deserve to feel awesome. You’ve got this!