1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Science has shown that mindful breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety, while encouraging relaxation. How we breathe governs how our nervous system functions. If we are breathing too quickly, the body’s sympathetic response is triggered, which results in an increase in stress hormones, a higher heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, greater sweat production and increased anxiety. Slower, more even breathing triggers the parasympathetic response, which results in greater calm and serenity. In fact, studies have found that mindful breath can increase overall comfort, pleasantness, vigor and alertness which can help put your mind and body at ease. In addition, a literature review about breath-control found that mindful breathing sessions result in a significantly increased perception of relaxation. Similarly, many yogis and Buddhist practitioners believe that our health and well-being depends on harmony of breath. If we are anxious or upset, our breath is shallow and uneven. If we are relaxed and content, our breathing rhythm is more natural and healthy for our body.
2. Supports Mental Health
Mindful breathing is often prescribed as a treatment for anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders. By focusing on the breath, those who suffer from negative or sad thoughts can concentrate on breathing instead of their worries. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has linked mindful breath with “reduced burnout, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and anxiety.” This is because the relaxation response triggered by mindful breath can decrease anxiety and stress levels in the brain. Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research identified a strong connection between mindful breathing and activation in the insula. The insula, a small region of the cerebral cortex, is linked to body awareness and regulates the autonomic nervous system. Mindful breathing can also stimulate the vagus nerve which is key to feeling more relaxed and at peace.
3. Helps Regulate Blood Pressure
According to the Journal of the American Heart, mindful breathing increases baroreflex sensitivity, which is a heart rate mechanism that can regulate blood pressure. Slow breathing exercises also have positive effects on heart rate variability (HRV), respiratory sinus arrhythmia, blood flow dynamics, cardiorespiratory coupling and sympathovagal balance. All of this results in better heart health and lowers the risk of heart disease and cardiopulmonary arrest.
4. Supports Healthy Brain Function
Mindful breathing strengthens the brain networks, keeping the brain more “youthful.” Youthful brains have a reduced risk of dementia and other cognitive brain disorders. In fact, Trinity College Dublin researchers found that breathwork directly affects the levels of a chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. If produced at a specific level, this natural chemical can help the brain grow. By controlling our breath, these researchers believe we then produce the right amount of noradrenaline to stabilize our attention, increase brain health, improve memory, increase clarity and stabilize our emotions.
5. Improves Emotions and Memory
Studies have found that how we breathe even affects how we feel. In particular, how we breathe can greatly alter our feelings of anger, fear, joy and sadness. In particular, research published by Science Magazine found that the rhythm and pace of our breathing can send electrical brain signals through the olfactory “smell” cortex, which is the region in the brain containing the brain's emotion epicenter, the amygdala. This stimulation can lower fear levels, influence other emotions and help us remember things better.
6. Boosts Immune System
Another study found that controlled breathing can boost the immune system as well as improve energy metabolism. Furthermore, the relaxation response can result in better insulin secretion which leads to better overall blood sugar management. In addition to stimulating the vagus nerve, deep breathing can increase alpha brain-waves. Alpha brain-waves are associated with feeling relaxed and the practice of meditation.
7. Helps Produce Antioxidants
One article published by the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that yogic breath is effective at combating oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract or detoxify these free radicals by neutralization through antioxidants. In this case, deep breathing can lower the free radical load while increasing the amount of an antioxidant called superoxide dismutase.
8. Helps People Quit Smoking
Other scientific studies have reported that mindful breathing can also help people undergoing cigarette withdrawal. One study found that 10 minutes of mindful breathing helped participants reduce cigarette cravings and the desire to smoke. Mindful breathing can also benefit patients with hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias due to the fact consistent deep breathing can lower blood pressure overtime. Decreasing blood pressure overtime also lowers the risk of stroke and cerebral aneurysm and decreased stress on blood vessels. Yogic breathing has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of bronchial asthma as well as enhance pulmonary functions.
9. Helps with Weight Management
The Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that yogic breathing could also act as an ancillary aid to modify body weight and the symptoms of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis as well as improve quality of life in diabetics.
10. Helps Relieve Symptoms of Other Health Issues
Studies have shown that mindful breathing is a promising adjunct therapy to cancer patients experiencing cancer related fatigue caused by radiotherapy. It is said that it can also enhance the antioxidant status of radio- and chemotherapy cancer patients. Mindful breathing can also be used as a therapy for patients with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines and lower back pain. In 2016 a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reported that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain perception in patients with chronic pain conditions and could potentially become an alternative for opioid prescription.