Hum Your Way to Better Health

Even though most of us have been humming throughout our lives, there are several powerful health benefits to paying closer attention to it and consciously integrating it into our daily wellness routines. Dive right into a practice session with Brian, then explore the resources below to learn more.

Enjoy a short practice with Brian – first loosening the body, and then exploring breath-connected vocalization.

Slow and low for calm focus.

The benefits researchers associate with humming can be grouped into two general categories. First, we promote a sense of calm focus by slowing down our exhalation when we hum. This process is complex but can be understood as activating the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” side of our autonomic nervous system.1 When we exhale slowly and deeply, we lower the heart rate and light up areas in the brain associated with reflection and decision-making. That slow and low out-breath sends messages up through the vagus nerve to our brain’s alarm centers that “everything is OK” and there’s no need for the “fight or flight” response of our sympathetic nervous system.2 This helps explain why we are often encouraged to “take a deep breath” when presented with a potential stress trigger.

Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating.

The second group of benefits we receive from humming relates to how we exhale. As we hum along to our favorite tune, we vibrate or oscillate the air in our sinuses and nasal cavity. This action naturally increases our production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that opens our blood vessels, boosts our circulation and even supports our digestion and immune function.3 Humming was found in one study to contribute to a 15-fold increase in NO production in the airways.4 Now, it is important to note that in order to reap these benefits we need to breathe in through the nose to carry these NO molecules down into the lungs. As we like to remind our students, nasal breathing is usually preferred to mouth breathing for a number of reasons, but we’ll save those for a future post!

Listen to the bees and let them guide you. – Brother Adam

The benefits of humming were well-known to the earliest practitioners of yoga, who integrated a soft vocalization during prolonged exhalation in an exercise we know today as the Bee Breath, or Bhramari Pranayama. Resembling the soft droning of a bee, this pranayama (breath control) practice embodies some of the vibratory qualities of mantra meditation where words and phrases are repeated to help softly center the mind within the body.5 There is evidence that such vocalizations may trigger the release of “feel-good chemicals” including endorphins and oxytocin, into the blood stream7,8. This helps to explain the virtuous circle common to many mind-body activities, where the more frequent and focused our practice is, the more deeply and consistently we feel its benefits. Humming can become a powerful tool in all of our wellness toolkits. Just like the breath, it’s always right there waiting for us, a gateway into the present moment.

General breathwork references:

McKeown, P. (2016). The Oxygen Advantage. New York, NY: William Morrow.

Nestor, James, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. (2020). New York, NY: Riverhead.

Research references:

1 Gerritsen. R & Band, G.(2018). Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12(397): 1-25.

doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00397  (This review presents a wide range of studies that illustrate how slower respiration rates and longer exhalations phasically and tonically stimulate the vagus nerve.)

2 De Couck, M., Caers, R., Musch, L., Fliegauf, J., Giangreco, A. & Gidron, Y. (2019). How Breathing Can Help You Make Better Decisions: Two Studies on the Effects of Breathing Patterns on Heart Rate Variability and Decision-Making in Business Cases. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 139(2019):1-9. doi10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2019.02.011 (Reports that just two minutes of deep breathing with longer exhalation engages the vagus nerve, increases HRV, and improves decision-making. )

3 Wink, D, Hines, H., Cheng, R., Switzer, C., Flores-Santana, W., Vitek, M., Ridnour, L. & Colton, C. (2011). Nitric oxide and redox mechanisms in the immune response. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 89(6): 873-891. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1010550

4 Weitzberg, E. & Lundberg, J. (2002). Humming Greatly Increases Nasal Nitric Oxide. American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, 166(2002): 144-145. doi:10.1164/rccm.200202-138BC

5 Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen., D, Pitani, R., Amaldas, J. & Shanmugam, P. (2018). Effects of Bhramari Pranayama on health – A systematic review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine,(8)1: 11-16.

6 MacMullan, A. (2020, September 25). Bee Breath: Hum Your Way to Health. Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.premayogainstitute.com/pyi-blog/bee-breath-hum-your-way-to-health

7 Merrett, D., Peretz, I. & Wilson, S. (2014). Neurobiological, cognitive, and emotional mechanisms in melodic intonation therapy. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8: 1-12.

8 Wilson, S., Abbott, D, Lusher, D., Gentle, E. & Jackson, G. (2011). Finding your voice: A singing lesson from functional imaging. Human Brain Mapping, 32(12): 2115-2130.

Building Precious Immunity

Hug a tree to build your Ojas, they said.

Photo taken at South Philly Meadows at dusk (A. MacMullan)

My teachers in ‘Ayurveda and Immunity’ at Prema Yoga Institute are sharing ways to retain and build your vigor and resiliency that is the root of our immunity.

Ojas is an Ayurvedic concept and refers to that shield that helps us ward off stress and sickness. When our Ojas is good we have a glowing complexion, a sense of well-being, the ability to endure, and a feeling of lightness in body and mind.

A person with high Ojas

On the other hand, when we have low Ojas, we feel depleted. Signs of low Ojas include:

  • Dry skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Heaviness in body and mind
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Tendency to get sick frequently
  • Lack of focus
  • Anxiety
  • Constant negative attitude

“We must guard our Ojas like a savings account,” Ayurvedic practitioner Julia Abramova says, taking care not to withdraw too much and potentially experience depletion and eventually disease. 

So how to you build up your Ojas if it’s depleted?

Recipe by Julia Abramova, Jyoti Yoga and Healing
  • Strengthen your digestive fire (get on a good eating routine, don’t overeat, etc)
  • Eat Ojas-building foods that are sweet, heavy, smooth, cool, stable (avocados, bananas, soaked dates, soaked raisins, fresh figs, sweet potatoes, mung beans, ghee, milk, almonds)
  • Do restorative yoga
  • Rest! All healing begins in rest.
  • Practice Abhyanga or Self-massage with Oils
  • Practice Pratyahara – disconnect from sensory overload
  • Walk in the moonlight
  • Forest bathing

So here’s a suggestion: go stand in nature and put yourself on “receive” mode, taking in the soothing sounds, gentle air, and life force of the beings around you. Drink in the beauty that surrounds you. Build your Ojas!

Sunsets are a marvelous way to drink in Ojas

Resources:

  • Ayurveda and Immunity, Prema Yoga Institute
  • Julia Abramova, E-RYT500, Founder and Program Director of Jyoti Yoga & Healing, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT)

The Skinny on Ghee

Over the summer, I took an Ayurveda course as part of my Yoga Therapy certification with Prema Yoga Institute, and was introduced to the concept of ghee, or clarified butter. We needed it to make one of our recipes, so I bought a jar for some astronomical amount, like $13. That first jar was a good investment!

My first batch of homemade ghee, July 2020

Ghee is a staple of the Ayurvedic diet. Some dishes call for one tablespoon of ghee per person! So what is it, and why is it good for you? Is it good for you? Ghee is just butter (use organic, unsalted, grass-fed butter) that is slowly cooked down and strained to remove milk solids and other impurities. After it cools, the result is a beautiful, rich golden color.

Some facts about ghee:

  • It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years. 
  • Ghṛta (घृत) is a Sanskrit technical term translating to “ghee” (clarified butter), and is used throughout Ayurvedic literature. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “sprinkled or illumined.”
  • Ghee was created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather. Given that its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks.
  • Ghee and butter are comprised of nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities, since it is free of both.
  • Eating fat-rich foods like ghee can increase the “bioavailability” and absorption of some healthy vitamins and minerals.
  • Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion.
  • Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
  • If you’re healthy and looking to add more fat to your diet, ghee may be a fine option; no evidence suggests that it’s healthier than butter overall.
Ghee solidifies when it cools, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

What Ayurveda says about Ghee:

  • Ghee is a digestive. It helps to improve absorption and assimilation. 
  • It nourishes ojas, tejas and prana
  • It is good for improving memory and lubricates the connective tissue. 
  • Ghee makes the body flexible and, in small doses, is tridoshic
  • Ghee is a yogavahi—a catalytic agent that carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the seven dhatus or tissues of the body. 
  • Ghee pacifies pitta and vata and is acceptable, in moderation, for kapha
  • Persons who already have high cholesterol or suffer from obesity should be cautious in using ghee. 
  • Ghee is not to be used when there are high ama (toxic) conditions.
  • If you’re not sure what your dosha is, you can take a Dosha Quiz.
You can’t see it, but ghee is holding this meal together, just like it does your insides.

Personally, I have noticed that I enjoy the preparation and the eating of my food more with ghee in the mix, used in place of vegetable oils to make eggs, stir fry, or spread on bread or crackers – I have even put ghee in hot beverages. I used to ‘say no’ to butter altogether, but why? A little fat is good for you, if you’re healthy! The taste is wonderful, and I feel more oleanated from the inside. I even use ghee on my skin sometimes.

Recipe from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad

I made my first homemade batch in July, and now it’s a regular part of my routine and diet. If you want to make your own ghee it’s really easy! Check out Dr. Vasant Lad’s Ghee Recipe. In case you’re wondering, I have not put on any unwanted pounds – in fact, the opposite has occurred, but probably because I have mostly eliminated processed food from my diet, and am consuming more vegetables and fruit.

Bring-Me-Back Kichadi recipe, featuring plenty of ghee, pardon the turmeric-stained page!

If you want yummy recipes and easy-to-understand information on an Ayurvedic diet and perspective, I highly recommend Ali Cramer’s book, Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, & Remedies for Balance. I have enjoyed her recipe for hearty, nourishing kichadi/kitchari that uses ghee a few times already!

Final fact: I have to HIDE THE GHEE JAR from my husband.

Sources:

Proning to Increase Oxygenation

Increasing oxygen saturation levels in the blood may be as simple as doing this pose!

Self-proning or Swimmer’s Pose

In last night’s Breath Coaching Course to support COVID-19 prevention and recovery, we learned about Resting Prone and Self-Proning in Swimmer’s Pose; directly from RN and yoga teacher Elizabeth Gottshalk, who worked in an ICU unit in NYU.

This simple technique – resting on your belly to bring the breath deeper into the back lungs, was shown to increase oxygen saturation in the blood by 10%.

During a pilot study done in March in a hospital in Brooklyn, 50 patients were treated. First, O2 levels were measured at an average of 80% – not high enough to sustain life. Our normal O2 level is 98%. They were given supplemental oxygen through cannula, and the level went up to 84% – still not high enough to sustain life.

When flipped onto their bellies, and given the support of pillows, patients oxygen saturation levels went up to 94%.

Elizabeth Gottshalk, RN and Yoga teacher

Self-proning can be used as home care for the flu and viral infections in order to increase oxygenation. Be sure that your head is higher than your feet – and switch sides every 2 hours. Get up and walk around after 8 hours to move ex cess fluid from the lungs.

Why does this work?

Proning, as it’s called, opens up the areas of the lungs that are normally compressed by the weight of the heart when lying on one’s back. And there is some thought that the back area of the lungs is more alveoli-rich, stimulating a faster gas exchange.

Proning is currently being studied as an alternative to intubation.

Thank you to Elizabeth Gottshalk for her dedication to helping others and for her teaching last night. Thank you to Prema Yoga Institute for putting together this amazing course.

Read more: Breath Coaching to Support COVID-19 Prevention and Recovery

Breath Coaching to Support COVID-19 Prevention and Recovery

“Whether we like it or not, we are all either in a stage of prevention or in a stage of recovery from COVID-19.” These are words that will get you thinking – am I doing everything I can to support my own health during this time?

Prema Yoga Institute, the NYC-based school where I am studying for my 850hr I-AYT certification (now all online), has gathered an incredible faculty of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and yoga therapists to create this course, and I am so grateful and proud to be enrolled!

Over the next five weeks I’ll be learning and re-learning clinically-informed techniques that can potentially bring more oxygen into the lungs, calm the nervous system, help clients clear excess fluid from their lungs, and more. I will even have my own mentor to help guide me on my way to better breath coaching.

While not a substitute for medical care, the Breath Coach Course is intended to teach supportive wellness activities that complement traditional health care; and some of these techniques are already being instituted in COVID-19 ICU units and other hospitals in New York with success! This makes me so hopeful that as a yoga professional I can make some small difference.

In the beginning of our training manual, there is a call-to-arms for us yoga professionals that I wanted to share because it is so inspiring to me:

  • “Healthcare professionals are the first responders, and the first part of our duty as laypersons is to control the spread – following all advised precautions including mask use and social distancing.
  • As yoga professionals, we can also provide a second means of support: We can teach the breath.
  • We can support prevention with down-regulating techniques for a healthy immune system.
  • We can support our clients in managing anxiety and depression through breath techniques.
  • We can teach how to increase the concentration anti-viral gas within the respiratory tract, and how to best oxygenate the blood using breath, stretch, and restorative postures.
  • We can encourage coherence among the systems of the body, and give our clients mindfulness techniques to support their recovery should they get ill.
  • We, as yoga professionals, cannot stop this disease. We cannot treat it or cure it, but we can do our part. We are arguably the largest profession in North America that addresses the breath everyday.
  • We can do our part. We can teach the breath.” (copyright Prema Yoga Institute, LLC 2020)

I’m all in! I hope with this training I can do my part to help. I am downright so excited to be enrolled. And of course, part of my homework is to teach these techniques, so help me do my homework…come to class or set up a private session with me.

Read more: Proning to Increase Blood Oxygenation

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Going with the Flow

One of my very best traits as a human is the ability to harmonize with others (vocally and otherwise!) However, recently I’ve begun to realize that inner harmony is an even greater skill, and definitely one needing honing in me. Balancing my own inner energies requires the skill of awareness on a deep, deep level. Learning to heed the need for rest, and recognize when something is not good for me are two biggies. 

Letting go of the need to do everything, be everywhere at once, and get it all done requires constant effort (or ease, actually.) And then there is cultivating the ability to ask for what I need from others, clearly and compassionately. Setting boundaries has never been easy for me, but now that I realize their importance I’m getting better at it.

When I’m harmonizing on the inside, not pushing myself through pain or low energy to try and “get it all done,” my emotions are calmer and my mind is also more tranquil. It’s then that the harmony of being with others and really listening (without interrupting) – and connecting with that divine flow of life energy that surrounds us every single minute becomes an absolute joy. 

Achieving this state of inner and outer harmony is only possible for me through a very regimented self-care routine. If I stick with my routine, I can really GO WITH THE FLOW so much better. And the type of yoga that is best for me is actually NOT the vigorous vinyasa that I used to do, but a more gentle type that helps me cultivate this constant awareness both on and off the mat. And that’s what I like to teach, too.

I think that’s the great journey of our lives: getting to know and heal ourselves, learning to listen, and striving for balance every single day – both within ourselves and with others around us.

Written by Ann

Yoga for Everyday Movements

Following Our breath: Staying safe throughout the day

A few nights ago, I learned a valuable lesson while picking up after our dog Lucy. I had been eager to return to my desk to record a few thoughts tied to this post you’re now reading: staying safe as we move through our everyday routines. And wouldn’t you know it, as I bent over, plastic bag in hand, I felt that familiar twinge in my lower back…I shook my head in disbelief and quickly corrected my posture, bending the knees and straightening the back…It was almost comical. Here I was, preaching the importance of proper posture and alignment, and then committing one of the cardinal sins myself…But that is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Building awareness and then informing our movement and mindset with that awareness. It actually sounds a lot like yoga when we’re tuned into a sequence…but what about off the mat, when we’re hammering away at our keyboard or picking up after Lucy? Where can we find that awareness before our lower back joins the discussion? Well, that is where our breath enters the picture…

Research shows that when we pay closer attention to our breath, we can not only relieve stress, but also sharpen our focus in the present moment. Our breath is always there for us and provides the ideal cue for us to pull our heads out of the past or the future, even if it is just to focus on picking up after Lucy. What’s important is that we stay safe during these everyday movements that we normally handle on autopilot…climbing in and out of a deep sofa or easy chair…checking our blind spot when changing lanes on the highway…lifting that bag of groceries out of the cart. As strange as it sounds, our breath can help us pay closer attention to what we are doing in these everyday moments and stay safe, so we can continue doing everything it is that we love doing, or even not love doing so much…

This series of short video tutorials slowly walks you through several basic everyday movements, highlighting how the breath provides us valuable cues on safe posture and alignment. We firmly believe that with practice, you will find yourself paying closer attention to not only these different movements, but also how you are feeling in the moment. It all comes back to following the breath, our gateway into the present. Please let us know what specific movements you would like to see featured in this series, and until next time, stay safe and keep breathing!

1. Everyday Yoga: Getting in and out of our chair

We get in and out of chairs dozens of times every day…in living rooms, offices, kitchens and bathrooms…it only makes sense we take a closer look at this movement to make sure we’re doing it safely. We can all too easily lose our balance, even with chairs we’re familiar with, leading to serious outcomes…in fact, 50% of folks over the age of 65 don’t survive beyond one year after suffering a hip fracture. This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support safely getting in and out of just about any chair you can think of. And as we do so, we’ll also gently tone the core muscles in our back, hips and midsection.

2. Everyday Yoga: Picking Something Up Off the Ground

So, imagine you’ve dropped your keys trying to get into the house, or maybe the dog has left you something to scoop up on your nightly walk…your mind is somewhere else as you bend over and suddenly feel that pull or pinch in your lower back. We have all been there…in fact, 80% of Americans experience significant back pain in their lives. One third report that it impacts their everyday activities, including sleeping! This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy forward bend, which can also help us build strength and flexibility in our core muscles of the back, hips and midsection. 

3. Everyday Yoga: Looking Over the Shoulder

Imagine you’re checking your blind spot on the highway…or you hear Interstate 95 in the Philadelphia area is one of my most learned mindfulness teachers. I owe so much of my progress in deep focused breathing to the drivers and potholes of this notorious stretch of highway. As I pay closer attention to my breath, I get plenty of practice in managing my stress levels, anticipating the next unexpected move of another motorist, and also turning more safely to check my blind spots. Looking over our shoulder seems like such a simple everyday movement, we rarely pay much attention to it…that is until we pinch a nerve in our neck as I did myself several years ago. I was sitting in my office and quickly turned my head as a colleague walked in the door. I immediately felt a sharp shooting pain down the right side of my neck and shoulder. It was months before I could move my head freely in any direction…This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy twist, which can also help to relieve back pain and tension

So let’s stay safe doing what we love doing (or maybe not love so much…) by paying closer attention to how we move through our daily routines. Think of it as yoga for everyday living!

Written by Brian

Cooling Breath

We can learn something from our dogs! We sometimes worry when Lucy practices her Cooling Puppy Pranayama, but she knows what she’s doing. Panting is the primary way for dogs to cool themselves off because they don’t sweat the way humans do. Instead, dogs cool themselves through their mouths using the evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue, and by exchanging the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air.

For us humans, Cooling Breath, or Sitali Breath, can help in much the same way. We can “drink the air” through a curled tongue to cool down!

How to Practice Sitali / Sitkari Breath:

  1. Close your eyes, take a few normal breaths, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”
  2. Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth.
  3. Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.
  4. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.
  5. Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. During each exhalation, you can also lightly touch the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth, inviting the tip of the tongue to send coolness toward the upper palate.
  6. Swallow now and then if the throat feels dry. 
  7. Continue this cycle until you feel refreshed.
  8. If you are unable to curl your tongue, try Sitkari breath. Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air. Inhale through the teeth and exhale through the nose.

Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst! Sitali breath cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and may reduce fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. Try it for yourself and let us know how it goes!

For more Pranayama or Breathing Exercises, visit the Breath Page.

Bee’s Breath

Why we love Bhramari Pranayama: As we’re exhaling and creating the droning sound, like that of a bee, we’re also lengthening our exhalations – which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the side in charge of resting and digesting. Calming, centering, grounding…bee’s breath is just what we need these days!

🐝Bhramari is the Sanskrit word for “bee,” and this pranayama or breath exercise is so named for the humming sound produced – like the gentle low buzz or droning of a bee. We like it best for its ability to drown out an anxious mental loop, and find it incredibly grounding and centering. 

Bhramari Pranayama (Bee’s Breath):

  • Calms and quiets the mind
  • Releases cerebral tension
  • Stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, supporting their proper functioning
  • Soothes the nerves
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Dissipates anger
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • May have a positive effect on tinnitus
  • Bolsters the health of the throat
  • Strengthens and improves the voice
  • Supports the healing of bodily tissues
  • Induces sound sleep

“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”

– William Blake

How to Practice Bee’s Breath:

  1. Sit comfortably but upright, with a stable foundation to support you.
  2. Gently close the lips, keeping the teeth slightly apart, and bring the tip of your tongue to the space behind the upper front teeth. (Keep the jaw relaxed throughout your practice.)
  3. This part is optional: You can actually use your thumbs to “close” your ears (for me, not all the way feels better) and then gently cover your eyes with cupped palms. There are other ways to practice with the fingers fanned out, but this is most comfortable for me. It does take the experience a little deeper inward.
  4. To begin, take a deep breath in through the nostrils.
  5. Begin to exhale slowly, making a steady, low-pitched ‘hmmm’ sound at the back of the throat—like the humming of a bee. Focus on making the sound soft, smooth, and steady. The positioning of the tongue allows the vibration to better resonate throughout the head.
  6. Continue for as many repetitions as you like. After the final exhalation, allow your breath to return to normal and observe any changes that have occurred.
  7. Maybe you can even feel the vibration continue throughout your head and body after you’ve stopped humming!

🐝How do you feel after your bee’s breath practice?🐝

Bee Breath is also featured in a blog post I wrote for Prema Yoga Institute, as part of my Yoga Therapy Training. I learned a little more about Bee breath during my Breath Coach course – and it turns out there is even more benefit to this technique than I could imagine! Read MORE.

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing – Learning to use the belly

  • Sit or lie flat with with one hand on your belly right under your ribs and the other on your chest.
  • From this position, take one deep breath through your nose while letting your belly nudge your hand outward. Ensure your chest isn’t moving as this happens.
  • Next, with pursed lips, breathe out like you’re whistling.
  • As you feel the hand you’ve placed on your belly go in, use it to push out all the air.
  • Repeat this several more times.

Why Belly Breathing?

  • The lower half of your lungs is the thickest and most closely compacted, which means more oxygen can enter the bloodstream. 
  • Consciously breathing into the lower half of your lungs by engaging the diaphragm, literally allows you to ‘breath more life into’… you. 
  • Oxygenated blood travels to the heart, where it’s pumped to the rest of the body via blood vessels that move into surrounding tissues. 
  • Ultimately, oxygen reaches every cell that makes up the body.
  • If your upper chest is moving when you breathe then you’re not using the lower part of your lungs, which means you’re not breathing optimally.
  • Chest breathing engages only the top part of your lungs, and remember that the lower half of your lungs is the most oxygen-rich.
  • If you’re breathing with your chest and not your diaphragm/ belly you’ll likely overuse your neck and shoulder muscles, which are not meant to be breathing muscles.
Belly Breathing with Dana Slamp of Prema Yoga Institute
Take a full class that includes Belly Breathing, stretching and strengthening to aid respiratory health!

What are the benefits of belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing has proven to: 

  1. Improve respiratory function, by relaxing tight chest muscles and by increasing lung capacity. Research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing can be especially helpful to those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  2. Lower heart rate and blood pressure, and is even recognized by the FDA in the treatment and regulation of hypertension. It also improves circulatory system function by maximizing the delivery of oxygen to the bloodstream and to each of the trillions of cells in your body.   
  3. Maintain blood pH levels (the scale of alkalinity to acidity.) Blood acidity is neutralized with the release of carbon dioxide from the lungs. Deep, slow breathing helps the brain and lungs continuously optimize pH levels.
  4. Engage your diaphragm internally which in turn massages your abdominal organs and glands, stimulating them and promoting their healthy and optimal function.
  5. Boost the immune system because as the diaphragm massages the internal organs and glands it helps move lymph (fluid containing the immune system’s white blood cells) throughout the body to their targeted locations.
  6. Detoxify the body. Controlled breathing stimulates lymphatic movement. One of the key functions of your lymphatic system is to flush toxins out of your body. Your lungs are also a major excretory organ. With every maximized exhale, you expel waste, toxins, and excess carbon dioxide from your system.
  7. Maintain healthy digestive function and help ease upset tummies. The same diaphragmatic massaging motion that helps flush toxins also helps stimulate blood flow of your intestinal tract, ensuring your gut muscles keep on moving as they’re intended to.
    • Breathing deeply can help prevent acid reflux, bloating, hiatal hernia, and intestinal spasms.
    • Deep breathing also helps quell the stress response, which compromises digestion. It’s worthy to note here that multiple studies and research confirm a high correlation between digestive/ gastrointestinal issues (i.e.: IBS) and mental health imbalances such as anxiety and depression.
  8. Increase theta brain waves. Theta brainwaves are associated with the state of deep relaxation and dreaming sleep, as well as increased creativity, super-learning, integrative experiences, and increased memory.
  9. Be an effective relaxation technique. This is because your breath acts as a switching station for your nervous system, specifically between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system (stress response), and the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response.) Deep, slow breathing relieves stress and relaxes you, and also engages your sympathetic in ways that work for you, not against you. In this way, deep breathing helps send your body signals of safety so that you can enter into a higher state of functioning – one that is healing, regenerating, and conducive to sustained fulfillment and thriving.
  10. Be an effective option for treating emotional and mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Source: Benefits of Deep Breathing, A Step by Step Guide to Diaphragmatic Breathing