When faced with stress, anxiety, low energy levels, or overwhelming emotions, we often turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as junk food, alcohol, or binge-watching TV. While these quick fixes may feel good in the moment, they only provide temporary relief – and in the long-term, could have negative effects on our overall well-being. The next time you’re feeling stressed, consider trying mindful breathwork instead.
Controlled breathing exercises can offer a simple way to influence our autonomic nervous system and ease stress. These stress management techniques have been employed for centuries in various cultures and ancient practices like yoga and meditation. Practicioners have long recognized the impact that focused breathing can have on an individual’s mental and physical states.
The Role of the Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration. It comprises two branches: the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for triggering the body's stress response, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and restoration.
How Does Breathwork Affect The Autonomic Nervous System?
Engaging in controlled breathing exercises can signal the body to relax and unwind. This shift helps counteract the effects of chronic stress that often keep us trapped in a heightened state of alertness and tension.1,2,3,4
Benefits of Stress Reduction and Breathwork for Heart Health
While heart health depends on many factors, including diet, lifestyle and family history, reducing stress through controlled breathing techniques may help promote heart health. Chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension and heart disease.5 While more research is needed on the physiologic effects of breathwork, both with and without meditation, practicing controlled or slow paced breathing may help reduce stress levels and promote cardiovascular health.1,2,3,4
Studies have linked controlled breathing to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is essential for managing stress and promoting the body’s relaxation response.2
A Breathing Exercise for Stress Relief
Give it a try:
Incorporating Breathing Exercises into Daily Routine
If you haven’t ever practiced controlled breathing, it’s best to work with an experienced practitioner so you can learn proper breathwork techniques. Also, to reap the benefits of controlled breathing, it is essential to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine. Once you have learned a technique you are comfortable with, set aside a few minutes each day, preferably in a quiet and comfortable space. With consistent practice, you can develop a heightened awareness of your breath so you can utilize it as a tool to manage stress, anxiety, and challenging emotions for improved overall well-being.
Controlled breathing techniques can provide a natural way to help you manage stress. So, the next time you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on your breath and try this technique out!
As a certified yoga teacher and certified breath coach, Amber is deeply passionate about sharing simple practices that bring our mind, body, and soul into a state of overall wellness. Aside from sharing yogic philosophy and practices, Amber is also and professional digital marketer.